Health & Well-being12th November 2013

NHS and the Right to an Interpreter

In an NHS setting communication is central to safety.

by Sarah Lawrence

After many examples of Deaf patients being denied an interpreter in an NHS setting, I sought to find out what the Department of Health thought should be made available.

Their response, thoughtful and considered, provides some useful information, and backs up all of the complaints Deaf people have been making over many years, when they have faced denial.

Importantly, the Department of Health recognise that the need to communicate effectively across physical language barriers has never been so important in the health service. Anyone who experiences a communications barrier is entitled to access interpreting and translation services.

According to the DoH commentator, the NHS provides interpretation services to all patients requiring them. “This may be either because English is not a first language, or because they use alternative forms of communication (for example, British Sign Language). This is not my experience, but I will now be using this information to deal with an NHS Service Provider that does not want to comply with this national Policy.

An excerpt from the communications says that, providing communication support to service users is driven by the requirement to comply with relevant legislation, including the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, and supporting guidance. This makes it imperative for organisations to provide language and communications support to ensure that patients are able to communicate effectively and appropriately with clinicians and other health service professionals.

I am not sure the Policy could be any clearer. Service Providers have to step up to the mark and start making the right decision, not the best cost-saving decision.

If a patient requires translation or interpreting services it is the responsibility of their local NHS trust to ensure that it employs the services of an interpreter who has the necessary knowledge and understanding required.” Most significantly, the DoH official confirmed that costs should be borne by the NHS Trust, and actually went on to intimate that costs should not be a consideration as to whether an interpreter would or would not be provided.

This explanation of the Policy, is considerably at odds with many of the experiences of Deaf or Hard of Hearing people I know, but this response will allow me to more directly challenge any inappropriate response to my needs.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

12th November 2013