The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters

In areas such as London where there is large culturally diversity, it seems that hospitals are running up larger than average bills because they are having to employ interpreters so that patients who do not speak the language can understand the medical staff who are treating them.
Recent numbers indicate that around seven hospital trusts in London have run up large bills employing interpreters trying to tackle language barriers. It has sparked fresh outcry across London and the rest of the UK that people who come to England to live need to be able to speak the language.
The London NHS Trust said that its biggest bill was for £2.2million pounds to make sure that patients who did not speak the language had access to interpreters. The figures highlight the problem of immigration and language barriers. Nick de Bois the MP who published the findings said that it was a clear example of the cost to the country that people who do not speak the language can bring.
The survey was based on information from The University College London Hospital Trust which spent £1.6million, Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital paid £1.3million and Great Ormond Street Hospital and Homerton University Hospital  had to pay approximately £1.2million each.
At a time when the country is cutting back on spending it seems an unnecessary expense for London hospitals to be spending their budget on interpreters. However it is also true that hospitals still need to provide proper patient care and when patients are unable to speak the language it seems that the hospitals have no choice but to employ interpreters.
Communication is important when it comes to good hospital care but this is not always easy or cheap as these London hospitals have proved by having to hire interpreters.
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Public Service Interpreting

It is easy to believe that interpreting is merely a case of translating one language for another. However, this is a misnomer particularly where public services are concerned. Interpreting is probably one of the most crucial and sought after need in the public service industry. From Social Services to housing, benefits and court interpreting, the process requires considerable other skills to that of understanding a particular language.
The Social Services department, particularly in cases of child protection require not only accurate translation during interpreting but sensitivity and, above all, confidentiality. Without those components the interpreting can be more of a casualty than a help. When for instance a child is to be received into the care of the local authority, a great deal of sensitivity is crucial on the part of the interpreter who is often the person to convey a very distressing message to a parent or relative. A good public service interpreter will also understand the importance of timing. The task of interpreting in the circumstances described above cannot be hurried. It is often necessary for a distressed person to take time out before commencing. Any interpreting undertaken for the Social Services in those circumstances should be preceded by an explanation to the client as to what he/she may expect and how it will be undertaken. The Social Services department should require a written undertaking of confidentiality and should further ensure that the interpreter is not known to the client in any capacity even living in the same vicinity.
Public service interpreting is also often used by the housing department particularly in multicultural areas where for many, English is not the first language, or where asylum seekers are concerned. This will also require a preliminary explanation to the client explaining the process that is to take place and also to explain the client’s rights and the limitations of any service required before the actual interview takes place.
Court interpreting also involves confidentiality and prior checks that the client is not known to the interpreter. It is sometimes the case that an interpreter is required urgently, particularly where someone who does not speak English has been arrested on a serious charge and is to be brought before Magistrates imminently. It is the task of the interpreter to explain to the client what is happening and what the charge is. The interpreter will be working with a solicitor who will explain everything to him/her. Most solicitors will become familiar with a translation service that provide good interpreters. A good Court translator will be experienced in working in the Courtroom and will have the appropriate public speaking skills. The interpreter will translate word for word which may well include swear words and abusive comments but interpreting means just that, interpreting exactly what is being said. The purpose of interpreting is to take the place of the person so that what is being translated is just as if the person was saying it themselves.
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