New report challenges media mockery of NHS translation services – Byline Times

Public spending on translation and interpretation services has been vilified by anti-migrant media. But new figures show the real scale of spending and need, reports Sian Norris

Translation and interpretation expenditure represents on average 0.057% of an NHS Trust’s total expenditure, Signing time and the Byline Intelligence team can exclusively reveal, challenging a media account that has previously accused the NHS of wasting money on translation services.

A new report, published by Inbox Translation and shared with this article, found that total NHS expenditure on translation and interpreting services for UK health trusts and boards was £65,962,418 in 2019 /2020 – this included British Sign Language, Braille and Welsh. materials.

The report’s authors understand that there was a 20.1% drop in spending in 2020/21, based on a small set of sample data. It may be related to the pandemic.

The Inbox Translation report was designed to correct misconceptions about translation and interpreting services in the NHS, updating data published a decade ago in the Health Check 20/20.

This first report was met with shock and horror by a British media outlet which criticized the “ridiculous” amounts of money spent to “help immigrants who do not speak English”.

The authors of the new report sought to challenge the media narrative of expressing outrage at the money spent on making health care accessible to people whose first language is not English. It did this by breaking down expenditure on interpreters, Braille and British Sign Language interpreters and written translated materials.

Of the money spent, they found that the vast majority was on interpreting services, which accounted for 84.8% of total expenditure. 13% of expenditure went to British Sign Language interpreters. On the other hand, only 2.2% of the total was devoted to translated documents.

Despite this low percentage, Health Check 20/20 had recommended that trusts could save money on translation services by using Google Translate instead of professional services. However, this new data reveals that such a move would not save money, as written translations represent only a small fraction of the money spent to make medical services accessible.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigation project formed by Signing time with Citizens. If you want to know more about the Intelligence Team and how to finance his work, click on the button below.

Challenge the media

The 2012 report failed to separate spending on interpreters and translated materials, leading to problems understanding exactly what was being spent on what when it came to making healthcare accessible. Instead, the right-wing press complained that “£59,000 a day” was being spent on translations in the public sector – rather than acknowledging that much of this money was likely used to pay performers.

Outraged media claimed that money was wasted on translating written materials for patients whose first language is not English.

the Daily Express called it “ridiculous” to spend “£100m on translators for 128 languages ​​in six years”; while the Daily Mail refers to “shock figures”. The £100million was for police, hospital and council translation expenses. The newspaper led with the message: ‘how you pay £100m a year to help immigrants who don’t speak English’.

“This despite repeated government attempts to save money and improve social cohesion by requiring new arrivals to take English tests and telling councils not to waste money on translating leaflets “. The government cut ESOL services – designed to teach English to migrants – by 60% between 2010 and 2016, cutting funding from £203million to £90million.

The daily mail continued: ‘Critics have said that at a time when budgets are being slashed by government, key public services can ill afford to spend millions of pounds to help immigrants who have not learned English’ .

The narrative suggested that migrants who struggled with English should somehow be penalized by the public sector.

“There were three main reasons for doing this research: the lack of recent and reliable data on the subject, the biased media reports – which always use words like shocking, useless, staggering when talking about the sums spent on translation and interpretation – and in the field of medical translation and interpretation, although all of the work we do is for private companies or individuals,” said Alina Cincan, author of the report.

Sian Norris

Fair and inclusive

Despite press accusations that spending money on translation and interpretation services is “ridiculous”, ensuring people have access to health care is a human rights issue.

Translations and interpreters help create fair and accessible public services so that everyone can get the information and care they need when they are sick.

Research published in the Oman Medical Health Journal on Language Barriers and Health Care found that “Language barriers are responsible for reduced satisfaction of medical providers and patients, as well as the quality of health care delivery and patient safety. patient”. This leads to health disparities in patient outcomes.

It’s no wonder, then, that 2015 data from the Office for National Statistics found that low levels of English lead to poor health – only two-thirds (65%) of people who didn’t speak English well English or not at all were in good health, compared to nearly nine in 10 (88%) who spoke English very well or well. The researchers suggested that this “may be due to poor English proficiency, which makes it difficult for people to access appropriate health care, which may have a longer-term impact on health.”

As such, making health care accessible to non-English speakers is key to ensuring equity in health outcomes, regardless of a person’s first language.

“A person’s health should never be put at risk by asking an untrained person to interpret,” Cincan said. “Family and friends may not understand or know the correct terminology, and they may also be tempted to gloss over or even omit some unpleasant details so as not to upset. Having professionals to handle this is, plain and simple, vital, nothing more and nothing less. When people’s lives are at stake, no risk is worth taking.”


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