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NHS spends 60k a day on translating services

8 February 2012

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The NHS spent over £23m on translation services last year and costs are continuing to rise.

Freedom of Information requests carried out by think-tank 2020 Health found the total amount spent on translation and interpretation in the NHS has risen by 17% since 2007 to reach £23.3m.

Almost £65m has been used to fund translation services during the past three financial years, amounting to £60,000 being spent every day.

Chief Executive of 2020Health Julia Manning said the lack of access to a central pool of translated documents forces NHS Trusts to take the expensive route to translate their own material.

“The [translation] costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity, and incredible when taken in the context of the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ of saving £20bn across the Health Service,” she said.

The think-tank recommends having documents in “easy to read” English for patients “struggling to learn the language”.

“It wouldn’t take much effort to drastically cut the £23million of taxpayers’ money that is spent each year on bureaucratic and often duplicated translation fees, and free the money up for treating patients,” said Manning.

The 2020Health report also questions whether catering to non-native English speakers actually serves them in good stead, or whether it perpetuates a system in which they are ostracized from the majority English-speaking public.

Zia Haider Rahman, a Bangladeshi human rights lawyer in London, says the provision of translation and interpretation itself is “damaging” as they “reinforce the language barrier” separating communities.