When a patient does not speak English, or is Deaf/hard of hearing:
If you have any of the following issues when trying to communicate with a patient whose first language is not English, or who is Deaf, you need an interpreter:
- Speaking loudly or communicating via gestures (note that this may indicate that a person is hard of hearing, thus an interpreter may not be needed)
- Speaking in “pidgin” English
- Using the patient’s family members to interpret
- Using colleagues who speak the same or a similar language to interpret.
These techniques will not facilitate you obtaining clear responses.
The first two may be considered rude by the patient, and speaking loudly may make the conversation less confidential.
Using family members breaches confidentiality, and they may interpret using their cultural and religious perspective rather than the words said.
Using staff to interpret may put them in a difficult position (for example, if the patient claims they interpreted incorrectly)
It is important to use a qualified or registered interpreter and have the agreement of the patient to do so.
Any patient of a GP practice requiring overseas language or British Sign Language interpreting can access this through the CCG’s contracts with interpreting providers. This is free of charge to GP practices.
Using an interpreter for spoken language or British Sign Language
It is the practice’s/provider’s responsibility to book an interpreter, not the patient’s. However, patients can self-refer for interpreting services, so do always check whether the patient has booked an interpreter themselves.
If an appointment is cancelled by you or a patient, remember to cancel your interpreter as well, as these appointments are still charged to the CCG if they are not cancelled. Ask your patients to let you know in good time if they cannot make an appointment, in order to avoid a short notice cancellation of interpreter charge.
You can find a poster with information on the Interpreting service, and guidance on using intepreting services, in the table below.
Overseas (foreign) Languages
Identify the language - face to face
Sussex Interpreting Service have produced a “point card” in the key locally spoken languages. Ask the patient to point to the language concerned, or their country on the world map.
Identify the language - on the phone
Usually patients have enough English to tell you their country of origin. If they are struggling, use the language identifier or advise them to ring SIS via the contact details below. They will normally be able to identify the language quickly.
If the patient is referred in from other sources, such as the Council’s Asylum team, the referrer should tell you which language is needed.
You can find information on how to access telephone interpreting in the table below. To access telephone interpreting, you will need your unique practice code, which is also held in the table below.
We are encouraging practices to use overseas language telephone interpreting where possible and appropriate - this is far more cost effective than face to face interpreting, as it paid for by the minute as used, rather than the hour.
Please consider using telephone interpreting for conversations at reception about registering or booking appointments, or for short appointments with a GP, nurse or other clinician.
This is preferable for communicating sensitive or complex issues, client preference and where there is notice of the appointment as it generally needs to be booked several days in advance.
Face to face interpreting should be used:
- where the patient is a child
- where the conversation is difficult or sensitive
- where it relates to complex health issues
British Sign Language/Lip Speaking
British Sign Language (BSL) is used often by people who are Deaf, deafened (i.e. have become deaf), or hard of hearing. Some hard of hearing people may also use lip speaking (where someone has been professionally trained to be easy to lip read). It is not the case that all Deaf people can read English proficiently, so a BSL interpreter, or lip speaker, should be used.
Currently we offer only face to face BSL interpreting, although we are looking at video relay interpreting for BSL users.
Translation refers to written information. The CCG contract covers translation of overseas language material, or translation from English into Braille.