Supermarket giant Morrisons is attempting to extricate itself from a tight corner after a translation issue at one of its supermarket pharmacies in Wales.
Last month, the parents of a 15-month-old boy were told their prescription for urgent steroid medicine to treat their son’s breathing problems was not acceptable as it was part-written in Welsh.
The incident in Bangor, north Wales, struck such a nerve that it led angry residents to gather in protest outside the Morrisons store, but not before several angry letters were sent to the Welsh Language Commissioner asking for legal measures to be brought against the company.
ITV News reports that the incident began when Alys and Aled Man needed the drugs to treat their son Harley’s respiratory problems.
The trouble arose when staff at the pharmacy found that the doctor’s prescription had been written partly in English and partly in Welsh.
Understandably, Morrisons has strict rules on dispensing medicines from pharmacies. The guidelines state that prescriptions should be written in English or bilingually, as around 73% of the country’s population have no Welsh language skills, according to the 2011 UK Census.
Morrisons made a statement to ITV Cymru Wales saying: “To make absolutely sure the correct dosage was dispensed, our pharmacist asked for a bi-lingual prescription, which once received, enabled him to supply the medicine to the customer.”
Now the company has gone a step further and undertaken a number of moves aimed at accommodating the use of the Celtic language across its Welsh stores.
Over the next few months it will be:
- changing all the staff name badges across Welsh stores so they include the ‘Iaith Gwaith/Working Welsh’ logo where appropriate, which indicates those members of staff who can speak Welsh
- meeting the Welsh Language Commissioner’s Office to discuss how definitive guidance on the use of Welsh for prescriptions can be reached
- extending the use of Welsh on signs in the company’s pharmacies
Morrisons said it prides on trying to do as much as is possible to communicate bilingually – in Welsh and in English.
It also says it follows the Welsh Language Board Best Practice Standard requiring:
• the two languages must be equally visible and legible and should be easy to distinguish from each other
• the Welsh language to appear to the left or above the English language
But Robin Farrar, chair of language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, said:
“Everyone should have the right to live in Welsh – from the doctors who want to work in Welsh, to the patients who want to receive treatment in the language.
“What Morrisons has done is totally at odds with the official status the Welsh language has and has caused anguish to the family.
“The standards dealing with the health service need to give people rights to use Welsh. But also, language laws need to cover more of the private sector, like supermarkets, so they respect and promote the language generally.”