We recently attended the PSIT network Conference (public service interpreting and translating) for Health and Social Care interpreters and service providers at the London Metropolitan University. From this January the government has funded an NHS enquiry on how to improve communication with people who are living or staying in the UK and can’t speak enough English to communicate their needs. Interpreters are the links between patients and doctors, torture victims and lawyers, people with social needs and social services. It’s not satisfactory when a family member interprets as they can manipulate or influence what the subject is saying.
Saaida Ahmed, Founding Director of Education Partnerships UK, told us that there are 400+ languages spoken in the UK and the Polish is the language most spoken next to English along with other Eastern European languages. Rachel Snow-Miller the Senior Programme Lead for Primary Care Commissioning for the NHS and head of the enquiry said that there are pockets of different language locations throughout Britain. In Boston Lincolnshire where my family origins lie, there is a large settlement of Lithuanians. In Leicester, English is no longer the predominant language as Punjabi, Gujarati and other Pakistani and Indian languages are spoken there.
All in all it’s a complex situation. Saaida had a brilliant idea when she suggested that each language should have a number, so that when anyone is in need of an interpreter, an interpreter with the right language skills can be brought in. There was a fascinating presentation given by Dr Jan Cambridge on the challenges faced in interpreting in healthcare settings and Dr Rebecca Tipton from the University of Manchester gave a talk on effective CPD for public service interpreters.
Danielle D’Hayer who was the organiser of the event highlighted, in her presentation how the principles guiding the work of the interpreter in healthcare and social services can be communicated to the user. It was a valuable suggestion and many interpreters agreed that before they started working with a client. It would be the right thing to do to give a statement, clarifying the principles of their job as an interpreter. It was a thought provoking day with lots of fun and discussion – interpreters tend to have a great sense of humour. I left full of admiration for the interpreters who do such a wonderful job in the face of so many challenges. Let’s hope that the Public Services in the UK will from now on be more organised in appointing skilled and trained interpreters (communicators) for this essential and important work. Rachel Snow-Miller plans to create a bank of recommended interpreters for the use of health and social care workers.