Health Services: Interpreters

Health written question – answered on 15th October 2008.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice, Shadow Minister (Shadow Solicitor General), Home Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the risks of medical accidents or misapprehension of clinical information identified by the seventh report of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health, Saving Mothers' Lives, of using friends and family as interpreters in medical and social care contexts, what steps he has taken to ensure that health and social care professionals have the assistance of interpreters qualified at the level of the National Occupational Interpreting Standards.

Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

We have advocated in the maternity standard of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services that all national health service maternity care providers and primary care trusts make provision for translation, interpretation and advocacy services based on an assessment of the needs of their local population. Copies of the framework have already been placed in the Library.

National health service and social care bodies are not required to report their arrangements for interpretation and translation services to the Department. When planning such services, they should take due account of their legal duties, the composition of the communities they serve, and the needs and circumstances of their patients, service users and local populations.

Heath and social care bodies usually commission such services from private organisations that provide access to qualified and trained interpreters. NHS bodies can also access telephone interpretation through NHS Direct, which operates from 21 call centres in England and have access to interpretation for over 100 available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

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