Lost in translation
Medical students can help out as interpreters
A patient walks into his general practitioner’s consulting room feeling poorly and leaves perplexed. He can’t see the relation between the nasty cough and enrolling with the local college. In fact, he was prescribed a “course” of antibiotics, but a makeshift translation from a friend results in him returning to ask for clarification. This patient isn’t the first, and surely not the last, to have difficulties in communicating with his doctor.
In 2006, the NHS budget for translation services for patients with little or no English was estimated to be £55m (€63; $90m).1 This inevitably leaves the people holding the purse strings wondering if this is money well spent and if there are ways to cut spending. Interpreters often reach out to patients who would otherwise be unable to access the NHS. To isolate them even more could have damaging effects on their health.
Interpreters are provided for patients in