Welsh-speaking school leavers are choosing not to study at Bangor University school of nursing, a decision which could have serious implications for the future of health care in the Welsh heartland.
Health watchdogs have called for research into why less than half of nursing trainees in Gwynedd speak Welsh, when most school leavers do.
At Gwynedd Hospitals NHS Trust only 25 of the 60 trainees speak Welsh. The September intake is no better, says the school of nursing.
Hospitals in the area need at least 65 per cent of nursing staff to be able to speak Welsh to meet local needs.
Tony Jones, the trust's executive nurse director, says that most hospitals are exceeding that target. Seventy per cent of staff speak Welsh, matching the proportion of patients.
But he says there are fears about the future and there have been talks with Bangor University about increasing its Welsh-speaking intake.
Philip Pye, dean of Bangor's school of nursing, says the traditional route into nursing for school-leavers has been through training hospitals in Liverpool and Cardiff. Despite local education policy ensuring secondary school leavers speak Welsh, potential recruits do not apply to the school of nursing on their own doorstep. Mr Pye said: "We need to raise the image of nursing in the schools."
Dewi Davies, chief officer for Gwynedd Community Health Council, said: "Older patients whose first language is Welsh have difficulty expressing themselves to English-speaking consultants at times of stress. We need Welsh speaking nurses to help take the tension out of the situation."