A new report has revealed that the NHS spends £60,000 a day on translation and interpretation, totalling over £23m last year.
Think tank 2020Health collected data from 247 NHS trusts using Freedom of Information requests. The report shows that NHS trusts spend over £23m on written translation and interpreters last year, an increase of 17 per cent since 2007.
According to the report, most NHS trusts translated from English into between five and 25 different languages. However, some trusts translated into as many as 120.
London trusts comprised 15 per cent of the trusts surveyed, but were responsible for 31 per cent of the total spend.
Trusts across Birmingham spent £4.9 million between 2008-9 and 2010-11 on translation services, the highest spend outside London.
The report states that the cost of translating documents has actually fallen, but there has been a rise in the cost of interpretation services within the NHS.
It questions whether catering to non-English speakers is helpful or ‘perpetuates a system in which they are ostracised from the majority of the English-speaking public’.
And with the NHS needing to make efficiency savings of £20bn by 2015, 2020Health says money could be saved by creating a central pool of pre-translated materials which all hospitals and GP surgeries could access.
2020Health also recommend translating materials into simple English rather than other languages.
Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020Health, said: “Our research shows that the NHS spends an incredible £60,000 every single day on translation services. That is over £20m a year.
“The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material, rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents.”
The news follows reports that the NHS is writing off 90 per cent of debt owed by foreign patients using the National Health Service for free.
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