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NHS translation costs criticized (England)

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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:42
Member
French to English
+ ...
Another day, another article about spiralling translation costs in the public sector... Feb 6, 2012

But what really concerns me about this one is the suggestion that free Internet translation software might be used by the NHS. If there's one area where it absolutely shouldn't be used, surely it's healthcare, where lives could end up being lost due to misunderstandings about patients' medical histories, allergies and so on? Though if that isn't a strong enough argument for them, perhaps the cost of the resulting litigation might be more persuasive.

 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
French to English
+ ...
Working link? Feb 7, 2012

Anyone know the working link for this story?

 

urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
German to English
+ ...
Health Warning - Daily Mail Feb 7, 2012

IIRC it was this one from the Daily Mail:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096966/NHS-spends-23m-year-translators-Costs-rise-hospitals-cater-120-languages.html

For the sake of your blood pressure, you might prefer to steer clear of the readers' comments at the end of the story.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Here's one... Feb 7, 2012

Neil Coffey wrote:
Anyone know the working link for this story?


Here's one:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/06/nhs-translation-money-2020health_n_1256926.html

Not a word about how many patients are treated, i.e. what the amount per patient is. The figure GBP 60 000 per day sounds ominous, but how many patients are we talking about here?

I think what happened here is simply that some people who didn't realise how expensive translation is, found out how much it costs, and now try to come up with inventive ways of reducing the expense. The solutions offered by 2020Health all relate to written translation, though it seems clear from the report that spoken translation (i.e. interpreting) forms a sizeable portion of the expense.

Some solutions offered make sense -- such as not retranslating the same things (and by that I mean complete materials, not individual sentences). Other solutions make less sense, such as the idea that people who can't understand standard English would certainly understand Simple English, therefore Simple English would be a perfect drop-in replacement for everyone's native language.

I also wonder how much of the budget is predetermined and how much is ad hockery. For example, if a trust decides to budget X million guid for interpreting services, then it means that they think they really need it. But if the trust needs to take money away from other budget pockets in order to keep the interpreting side of things afloat, then it raises flags.

Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers will be shocked that so much is being spent on translation and interpretation in the NHS. Well, replace "translation and interpreting" with "cleaning services" or similar, and the argument makes as much sense. Why can't all people who live in the UK just learn English? Why can't they just learn to clean up after themselves (or why can't the doctors and nurses not just clean up after themselves)? Think of all the money one can save!

2020Health also says: But those who live in Britain should make an effort to learn to speak English so that they are not burdening services like the NHS with ongoing costs for translation. But this is not the NHS's problem -- if they believe services to non-English speaking people should be reduced, they should not target the NHS but the government departments responsible for laws on equality and discrimination.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yesterday Feb 7, 2012

Neil Coffey wrote:

Anyone know the working link for this story?


Hi Neil, it was in yesterday's DM, this is the link I shared on FB:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096966/NHS-spends-23m-year-translators-Costs-rise-hospitals-cater-120-languages.html

The attitude expressed in some of the readers' comments beggars belief.

[Edited at 2012-02-07 08:35 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
Hebrew to English
Hmmm.... Feb 7, 2012

neilmac wrote:

Neil Coffey wrote:

Anyone know the working link for this story?


Hi Neil, it was in yesterday's DM, this is the link I shared on FB:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096966/NHS-spends-23m-year-translators-Costs-rise-hospitals-cater-120-languages.html

The attitude expressed in some of the readers' comments beggars belief.

[Edited at 2012-02-07 08:35 GMT]


"We're sorry but reader comments are currently unavailable."

I wonder why.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Download and read the actual report Feb 7, 2012

The actual report can be downloaded for free, here:
http://www.2020health.org/2020health/Publication/Professional-Development/Translation-Services.html

2020health Report: Lost in translation
Dr Samantha Gan
This report investigates NHS spend on translation services, the overall costs as well as the individual areas of spend. Research was conducted by 2020health through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to 247 NHS Trusts. Read full report (PDF, 648 KB) or press release.


From the report I gather that the researcher had asked the wrong questions from the polled trusts, and is now trying to use the useless statistics to prove something that looks like money well spent. The conclusion of the report should not be the summary of recommendations but the fact that nearly half of the trusts who responded could not provide information in the detail required by the report, which makes drawing conclusions from it basically impossible.

Also, researchers should learn that if they include "Google Translate" as an option or solution in their report, their entire report's credibility will be forever damaged by it.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
Hebrew to English
It's a bit rich...... Feb 7, 2012

You can't decimate ESOL provision and then complain that immigrants don't speak English.

 

Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
French to English
+ ...
OMG Feb 7, 2012

And why?
"The organisation suggested using free internet translation software and easier to understand English rather than medical jargon."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16905491
More detail is needed - I just mean that I don't see why the register of what's said has to be lowered or changed in the translation, but obviously it has to be comprehensible.

[Edited at 2012-02-07 12:33 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Horse and cart Feb 7, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:
You can't decimate ESOL provision and then complain that immigrants don't speak English.


I have tried to figure out what sequence of events the reporter had in mind:

1. No more Bengali translations.
2. Bangladeshi person breaks his arm.
3. Bangladeshi person goes to English classes to learn English.
4. Bangladeshi person then goes to hospital to get treatmet for his broken arm.

The report says that providing Bengali translations is a disincentive for Bangladeshi people to learn English, but I can't help but wonder just how much time the average Bengali speaker spends on health related issues per year (say 12 x 2 hour visits, or 0,005% of his waking hours), and whether that alone would be sufficient incentive for them to learn a whole new language to a level that is good enough for them to understand medical stuff.

The report complains that Londen incurs twice as much translation spending per capita, but perhaps the reporter lives in an English pocket on the edge of London and is unaware that English is not the main language of London...?


 

Carole Paquis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
Member (2007)
English to French
If I may be facetious... Feb 7, 2012

It would also be nice if NHS staff spoke English to start with...

So the idea of having a pool of documents in simple English might help.icon_wink.gif


Also (second facetious comment of the day):

Fact number one read in the 'popular' press: EveryBody Speaks English around the world
Fact number two read in the 'popular' press: Foreigners in Britain don't speak English

Therefore: people who around the world don't speak English come to live in Britain, just to be a pain.


QED! icon_biggrin.gif

Carole


 

Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
DM cooments Feb 7, 2012

I try not to read DM readers' comments as it usually leaves me with the impression that the UK is populated by wild dogs who can only feed and snarl.

 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:42
English to Polish
+ ...
disincentives Feb 7, 2012

Samuel Murray wrote:

The report says that providing Bengali translations is a disincentive for Bangladeshi people to learn English, but I can't help but wonder just how much time the average Bengali speaker spends on health related issues per year (say 12 x 2 hour visits, or 0,005% of his waking hours), and whether that alone would be sufficient incentive for them to learn a whole new language to a level that is good enough for them to understand medical stuff.


If their health depended on it, perhaps (especially if "understanding medical stuff" was more about "stomach aches" than "perdicarial friction rub").

I wonder how many countries provide taxpayer-covered interpreting services in healthcare at all.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
If their health depended on it Feb 7, 2012

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
The report says that providing Bengali translations is a disincentive for Bangladeshi people to learn English, but I can't help but wonder just how much time the average Bengali speaker spends on health related issues per year (say 12 x 2 hour visits, or 0,005% of his waking hours), and whether that alone would be sufficient incentive for them to learn a whole new language to a level that is good enough for them to understand medical stuff.

If their health depended on it, perhaps (especially if "understanding medical stuff" was more about "stomach aches" than "perdicarial friction rub").


I rather doubt it. My point was that a person's health related life is such a small part of his actual life that it is not worth the investment to learn a new language for it. Let's not forget that learning a new language is not easy, and tourist-level English would be good enough for what is being proposed here. Finally, by the time a person realises that he needs to learn English, it will be too late for him.

Let's get practical: If Poland were to issue a new law that only people who can speak Chinese can receive medical help, buy medicine, or get medical information, would that be sufficient incentive for you or other Poles to learn Chinese? I don't think it would -- those who can't speak Chinese would simply seek alternative sources of medical attention (but maybe Poles are different from me).


 

Ania Heasley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:42
English to Polish
+ ...
Almost... Feb 7, 2012

Samuel Murray wrote:

Let's get practical: If Poland were to issue a new law that only people who can speak Chinese can receive medical help, buy medicine, or get medical information, would that be sufficient incentive for you or other Poles to learn Chinese? I don't think it would -- those who can't speak Chinese would simply seek alternative sources of medical attention (but maybe Poles are different from me).


Your analogy almost work. Since it's Poland, substitue 'Chinese' to 'Polish' and it suddenly makes a lot of sense.

If you go to the doctor's in Poland, then I do believe that you should try your damnest to learn some basic Polish terms, make an effort, check online, make a note using google translate, take a Polish speaking friend, anything and everything you can think of to help you deal with the situation.

A&E cases excluded.


 
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