By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A new report shows that Britain’s NHS pays out £60,000 a day on translation and interpretation services, with Leeds among the highest spenders. Research by think-tank 2020Health showed NHS trusts spent £23.3 million on written translation and interpreters last year, an increase of 17% since 2007.
The organization obtained the figures through Freedom of Information requests also said money could be saved by creating a central pool of pre-translated materials which all hospitals and GP surgeries could access. Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020Health, said, “Our research shows that the NHS spends an incredible £60,000 every single day on translation services. That is over £20,000,000 a year. The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material, rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents. The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity, and incredible when taken in the context of the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ of saving £20 billion across the Health Service. Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs and our report sets out a number of recommendations that would do exactly that without altering the level of care given.”
As well as a central library of information, the think-tank recommended translating materials into simple English rather than other languages. It also suggested providing more written translations through free web-based services, such as Google Translate.
Ms Manning went on, “The NHS has been told by its own patient feedback that documents in simple English - instead of medical jargon - would be acceptable to most people currently using the translation services. It wouldn’t take much effort to drastically cut the £23 million of taxpayers’ money that is spent each year on bureaucratic and often duplicated translation fees, and free the money up for treating patients.”