It appears that health chiefs in Kent spent more than £500,000 on translation services in the last three years, according to a new report. The report states that this amount could have been reduced by centralised sourcing of services.
While the study by independent think tank 2020 Health acknowledged the crucial need for interpreters in hospitals, it blamed the NHS for a complete lack of centralised supplier databases, and databases of already translated documents, such as health information leaflets. If these were in place then a document could have been translated just once and circulated to the relevant regions.
Instead, it claimed, NHS Trusts were having their own material translated, replicating work carried out across the country that could be carried out just once centrally.
Chief executive of 2020 Health Julia Manning said more than £20 million was spent nationally last year on translation services within the NHS.
“The most glaring problem is that NHS Trusts translate their own material, rather than having access to a central pool of translated documents,” she said.
“The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity. Urgent action must be taken by Trusts to stem the flow of translation costs.”
The biggest spender in the county was East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, spending £122,404 last year, rising from £78,458 in 2009/10 and £35,415 in 2008/09.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust spent £68,094 last year, £24,742 in 2009/10 and £24,384 in 2008/09.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust spent £34,600 last year, £54,000 in 2009/10 and £51,000 in 2008/09.
Other Kent Trusts saw significantly lower spending or did not respond to 2020 Health’s Freedom of Information request.
A spokeswoman for Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “Non-English speaking patient and nurse/clinician communication is really important.
“Not only do patients need to understand details about their treatment and care, they also need to have the opportunity to ask any questions they have and to receive information in response.
“We are unable to rely on non-English speaking patients bringing an English speaking companion to hospital, therefore we do hold a list of staff who speak foreign languages and who are happy to be called upon to assist doctors and other clinical staff.
“We are continuing to explore ways in which we can offer this important service to our patients in the most efficient and cost effective way.”
YourCulture feels that this report could have gone much further by not only looking at centralised document repositories, but also by looking at whether the NHS is utilising modern translation tools such as translation memory.
If the NHS were to put in place a centralised translation memory system they would save thousands on translation costs. Translation memories keep a record of sentences and phrases that have been translated in the past and if it comes across the same sentence in a new document, automatically translates it using the memorised translation.
If you feel that you may be spending too much on translation, like the NHS, then get in touch with YourCulture for a expert discussion with our team.
If you require medical translation services please call us on +44 (0) 203 2868026