The Welsh government has said it will consider recommendations following a report from the Senedd suggesting translators should be provided to patients in Wales to prevent health conditions from being missed.

The Equality and Social Justice Committee said in the report that mistakes and misdiagnoses were made frequently due to “wholly inappropriate use of family members as interpreters in medical settings, rather than trained professionals”. The report added that not providing adequate interpretation in medical settings was a “potential breach of their human rights”.

Dr Shanti Karupiah, Vice chair of policy and public affairs at the Royal College of GPs, said that patients will often not share details of their symptoms for partners or family members to translate due to embarrassment.

She explained: “There are cases where the son says one thing, because mum is so embarrassed to say the thing that she wants to say, and he interprets, as best he can, and then there’s a missed opportunity, near misses and misdiagnosis.

“If you can’t speak the same language, it’s hard to get appropriate care. If a misdiagnosis is made, it can be the difference between life and death.”

The Welsh government has been called on by the committee to put a stop to relying on family members and partners to translate, as part of the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan.

Chair of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, Jenny Rathbone MS, said: “It was worrying to hear evidence regarding mistakes and misdiagnoses that can result from inadequate language interpretation.

“The Welsh government must recognise that failing to provide adequate interpretation to individuals with incomplete command of either English or Welsh in a medical situation is a potential breach of their human rights.”

The report also highlighted that healthcare was not the only public service in Wales where people from ethnic backgrounds received worse service. It also called for changes to be made in education and criminal justice.

Ms Rathbone said: “The Welsh government has set itself the aim of an anti-racist Wales by 2030, a mere six years hence, that requires us to be active, not passive to resist, rather than resign ourselves to racial discrimination. And to recognise that it is time for action, not words.”

To improve the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan, the report included 10 recommendations including the need to increase efforts in eradicating the use of family members as interpreters in medical settings.

The Welsh government responded to the report saying: “We are committed on driving forward our Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan and working towards achieving an anti-racist Wales by 2030.

“We recognise the importance of reducing instances where family members are acting as interpreters.”

The government added that professional interpreters and translators are provided for the public sector by the Wales Interpretation and Translation Service and is working with Public Health Wales to investigate the possibility of a directory of interpreters.

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