to think if you want NHS care you should learn English or have an interpreter?

(189 Posts)
theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:03:55

My local town is now populated by 47% Polish - no problems as according to the figures 21% work so presumably speak English. I have to attend my local centre to see my Consultant and for scans. However, everytime I have been the centre is full of Polish woman who do not speak a word of English and expect the NHS to provide an interpreter. Thursday clinics are the worst as this is when the men have to attend the Job Centre to get "paid" so the ladies are left to fend for themselves. The men seem to be able to speak more English than the woman.

At first they were turned away as the MW's were unable to do their jobs properly but these ladies have filed a law suit against the clinic stating it is their human right to have NHS care as they are on the benefit system and that the NHS should provide full time interpreters for them.

If they win, does this not open up another can of worms that every person that can't speak English and on the benefit system is entitled to on demand interpreters?! This would then be another huge cost to the NHS.

I am in no way racist and if the UK wants to encourage people over here for benefits then so be it but when does the free stuff stop?! Should people not learn to speak English if they want to claim on the benefit system?

Forgetfulmog Wed 23-Jan-13 15:06:44

Oh dear

<dons tin hat>

INeedThatForkOff Wed 23-Jan-13 15:08:49

I don't really think anyone can be made to learn English. How do you enforce it? How can it be measured? However I personally couldn't live in a non-English speaking country without attempting to learn the language, for my own sanity.

I don't think the NHS should be providing interpreters in these circumstances, FWIW. I suppose I think that the individual should make their own provision.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 15:10:38

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

PandaOnAPushBike Wed 23-Jan-13 15:10:40

So you think healthcare should be dependent on language ability rather than need. YABU

In the country I live in everyone is entitled to an interpreter when dealing with any state organisation, be that the health service, the council, the school, the job centre etc if they need it. It is considered an unquestionable, basic human right. A country has to meet the needs of all people who live there, not just those with a particular set of skills.

Flisspaps Wed 23-Jan-13 15:10:47


Can we get ask the nurses to speak English too then?

INeedThatForkOff Wed 23-Jan-13 15:12:42

Ps I think my second paragraph was a bit stupid in hindsight. Ignore.

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:12:43

why don the tin hat? :-/

I am not really asking that they learn to speak English as such but more that they don't take the said hospital to Court & suing for damages as said hospital doesn't provide them with a full time interpreter. I feel that they should bring someone with them that can speak both languages. I would never dream of living in a Country I couldn't speak the lingo & then to have the audacity to sue them this beggers belief.

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:15:22

ok, appears that I am in the wrong - roll on the NHS providing full time interpreters for all languages at every hospital/clinic. This wont cost too much.

Forgetfulmog Wed 23-Jan-13 15:15:57

Is this a Daily Mail story by any chance?

DontmindifIdo Wed 23-Jan-13 15:16:10

BTW - even if people can speak good levels of English, that doesnt mean that a) in a time of pain/sickness/stress they still will be able to and that b) that a 'good level' is good enough for detailed medical conversations.

Plus through out the EU you have a right to ask for an interpreter when dealing with government organisations for that country. Other countries aren't at great at doing this as we are, but if you say, got arrested in Portugal, you would have a right to be questioned with a qualified interpreter, and also have a right for any documents to be translated into English for you. (whether you'd get it in all EU states is a different matter....)

Ahh, I feel sorry for the Spanish after years of ex pat brits move out there and refuse to speak Spanish.

How do you know they're not privately paying for NHS treatment?

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 15:18:39

Theebay, your post is hardly devised to be taken seriously.

We all know that the government does not have a policy of inviting immigrants over for benefits, in fact there are strict rules about how you can access benefits as an immigrant- it's not something they hand you at the border.

We can hardly believe that you are capable of looking at a lady in the maternity clinic waiting room and telling from the sight if her that her husband is absent because he is signing up rather than e.g. performing crucial work for the local council. Or did the ladies specifically petition for a service to be provided when their husbands are collecting benefits?

You are making this situation up.

Many, many of us will have been abroad at some time and needed medical attention for ourselves. Many would probably expect to be able to make themselves understood in English.

Unspotted pregnancy complications are likely to cost the system very heavily, in terms of dying or permanently disabled mothers, and dead or permanently disabled children. If we don't want to pay that further down the line, it makes good sense to provide the most accessible pregnancy care we can.

skullcandy Wed 23-Jan-13 15:19:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Yakshemash Wed 23-Jan-13 15:20:53

<cough> beggars <cough>

HecateWhoopass Wed 23-Jan-13 15:21:18

Yes. People who need care but who have problems communicating should be entitled to an interpreter. Particularly something as important as healthcare. It is vital to have a clear understanding of what medical advice is being given to you.

Or do you mean they should pay for one themselves?

What about deaf people? Should they pay for their own interpreters? What about people with disabilities that mean they need a support worker to explain things to them in a way they can understand? Should they pay for them themselves?

I have no problem paying a little more tax in order to ensure that people are clearly communicated with. I think it's not a lot to ask that someone understands what's happening to them medically.

PandaOnAPushBike Wed 23-Jan-13 15:21:18

They don't have to provide interpreters for all languages at every hospital/clinic. Don't be such a drama llama. They just need to provide access to interpreters which can easily be done over the phone. I've been at hospital appointments with an interpreter present, an interpreter on conference call and even where the doctor has rung the interpretation service just to check the meaning of one word.

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:21:21

aha I didn't realise this. Then surely if you cannot speak English you should request an interpreter in advance rather than turning up for your appointment, phoning a friend and demanding that one is provided there and then? I suppose as this town (I live in a village 15 mins away) is mainly populated by Polish than they should provide a full time member of staff. I am just amazed that a group of people are suing the NHS for damages as the MW's were not able to understand them. I hold my head in shame to have even had these thoughts.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 15:22:25

Well, skullcancy, if the clinic is simply turning these mothers away and refusing to examine them, then they are clearly not exploring the most effective ways of doing this. Sounds like they can't be arsed.

fromparistoberlin Wed 23-Jan-13 15:23:20

you hate Polish people

lets just deal with the facts here and stop going on about translaters


KoalaTale Wed 23-Jan-13 15:23:38

Yanbu, but this has been going on for years with anyone who doesn't speak English. I've a friend who's an NHS receptionist - non English speakers get given an interpreter at NHS expense, costs a fortune!!!

It's a disgrace.

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Wed 23-Jan-13 15:23:43

Where is this town? Is there a link to a news story about this court case?

mrlazysfishwife Wed 23-Jan-13 15:23:56

I work in the NHS and i get really annoyed at the reluctance to use interpreters. Management expectation (as they have to sign off the request) is that family can do it. This is often highly inappropriate. We are a civilsed country and should treat people with respect, how we'd like to be treated as we would be elsewhere.

The women sueing are right, as it is their right to have full access to NHS care, the MW's can't just unilaterally refuse to treat them.

As others have said, we have the same rights throughout the EU (we can claim benefits in Poland should we want to).

OP your comments about benefit day have done you no favours at all and your post just comes across as xenophobic I'm afraid.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 15:24:31

theebayqueen, are you sure that the local press are really giving an unbiased idea of what has been happening here? if what you say is correct, then the clinic have actually been acting in a very unprofessional manner and are probably anxious to cover their backs; there may be more to this story than meets the eye.

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:25:41

no, they are not requesting telephone support - they want a interpreter to be at the clinic full time so that they can have face to face interpretation. but then what happens at the hospital when they give birth?

I agree telephone interpreters should be provided free of charge but how much is a salaried interepreter say 6/7 days a week all year going to cost the NHS? Maybe they should emplyo multilingual MW's?!

Not looking to row but a solution.

PictureMeInThese Wed 23-Jan-13 15:26:19

Were you on QuestionTime last week?

I think being refused treatment is very harsh but so is suing. I can see why people would be reluctant to issue prescriptions though as it must be difficult to ensure that it's the right medicine or that it won't react with other medication.

I don't think it's rocket science to have the sense to bring someone along who can explain/translate. After all y would anyone want to wait around for hours waiting for an on call translator who could be tied up for hours with other cases, to get back to them.

Surely everyone wants the same thing. To be treated or to be able to treat the patiend confident that all had been understood?

MamaMary Wed 23-Jan-13 15:27:31

So does the Spanish healthcare system provide interpreters for ex-pats?

I think it's up the ex-pats to either learn the language or fund their own interpreter until they do. This does not in any way make me racist or xenophobic. When I lived abroad, I learned the language. Before I was proficient, I would have brought a friend or someone to interpret for me in these circumstances.

skullcandy Wed 23-Jan-13 15:27:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ParsingFancy Wed 23-Jan-13 15:29:08

"this is when the men have to attend the Job Centre to get "paid" so the ladies are left to fend for themselves."

What, they all have the same signing on day? And unemployed men need to sign on, but women don't?


tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 15:30:35

Can we have a link to the story about women 'suing the NHS for damages' or 'filing a law suit' because there is no full-time interpreter?

No linky, no

DontmindifIdo Wed 23-Jan-13 15:30:51

Re bringing someone with them, very few people below post grad level have the language skills to do detailed medical conversations, before things like the national register of public service interpreters were set up, there were several cases of medicial mistakes due to language mix ups

Hammy02 Wed 23-Jan-13 15:31:17

YANBU. My mum used to work in a hospital and said often patients asked for specific translators. There was some sort of racket going on.

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Wed 23-Jan-13 15:31:44

tiktok grin I'm still waiting for that too

MrMeaner Wed 23-Jan-13 15:32:09

Admittedly I've been out of the UK for a while myself now, but there's really a town with 47% only Polish people living in it?
Could you link?

Guiltypleasures001 Wed 23-Jan-13 15:33:59

Our local mental health trust spends 10K a month on interpreters.

MrMeaner Wed 23-Jan-13 15:35:08

Oh... and in Austria where I lived for 6 years, all medical info is available in English, Turkish and many Balkan languages, as well as German.

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:35:51

totally agree, expats should learn Spanish. why should we expect them to learn English?! If I go abroad, I take out adequote medial cover to ensure that I will be treated by an English speaking hospital - would never dream of demanding an interpreter. I am not talking about a specific Country - all Countries should request a level of understanding of their language and/or accept a telephone interpreter. I am not a racist and would be agreeing if someone in Spain/Poland/anywhere in the UK posted that English go over there demanding face to face interpreters. The MW's/sonographers are obviously reluctant to treat these ladies as how do they explain if something is wrong? It is not for the staff to deal with this but for the NHS to do something.

DontmindifIdo Wed 23-Jan-13 15:36:46

oooh, I remember reading about a case (although can't remember details or find it now) when someone sued... because a hospital used an unqualified translator (just a member of staff who said they spoke the language) to translate some documents sent from a paitent's home country, they mixed up the left and the right kidney IIRC. That did not end well... (although written translation is rather different skill from oral interpreting)

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:37:00

It is in the local paper - just need to heat up my scanner & download - give me 10 minutes if ok? :-)

HopAndSkip Wed 23-Jan-13 15:37:42

Oh, equally if we go on holiday and want emergency treatment, we'd better quickly learn the language or suffer away quietly while we phone around to find ourselves an interpreter? As if I need to mention it, but YABVU

Boomerwang Wed 23-Jan-13 15:38:33

I think if the funds for an interpreter came out of a different pot you wouldn't be quite so miffed.

Even if the NHS received less funding because of it.

herladyship Wed 23-Jan-13 15:40:28

Every NHS trust I've worked for has had a clear policy..

Family/friends/staff should not be used as interpreters

Phone services (language line, pearl linguistics) are used to communicate with patients

Patient indicates their language on a sheet, there are 2 handsets, you plug them in & put in code

Very simple, available 24hrs, can be used in hospital or community

theebayqueen Wed 23-Jan-13 15:40:41

hopandskip - do you not take out adequote medical insurance when you go on holiday to receive treatment in a bilingual hospital? seriously? first thing I do when booking a holiday - my health comes first.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 15:41:23

Your local paper will be on the web, OP.

Just a link, is all smile

Then we can judge the veracity of the story.

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Wed 23-Jan-13 15:41:41

You don't need a scanner to post a link, just paste the url into a message and hit send.

PandaOnAPushBike Wed 23-Jan-13 15:42:06

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 15:42:14

'Bilingual hospital'???

ihatethecold Wed 23-Jan-13 15:43:04

I book interpreters for the health service/ social services/ police and I can tell
You all
That the budgets for these services has been massively cut recently.
Some doctors will employ a Lithuanian/polish/Russian interpreter to keep the costs down.
Some places only use telephone interpreting now. Which is much cheaper.

Some surgeries will have clinics on certain days to service a group of patients. The interpreter will be paid for a half day and those patients will be seen on that day. Makes sense all round.

Some communities have lived in England most of there life but never learn the language. E.g punjabi/ Urdu.
The women have always had the husband to interpret for them or they don't mix outside of their community. So they never learn the language.

EauRouge Wed 23-Jan-13 15:44:34

A town that's 47% Polish? Bollocks.

thegreylady Wed 23-Jan-13 15:45:05

Our GP surgery in our small Shropshire town has the digital sign in screen with a choice between Polish and English. When you think of the great service done to this country by Polish airmen during the war and the shabby way they were treated afterwards all of us should be glad that we are finally giving something back to these proud,hardworking and very courageous people.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 15:45:22

Could be Warsaw, Eau?

TotallyBS Wed 23-Jan-13 15:45:47

47% in your town is Polish??? Care to name this town?

Or is it really 47% are Asian and you think that by country changing you can avoid being flamed for being racist (not that I think that you are).

JoanByers Wed 23-Jan-13 15:46:36

Are you getting confused with 4.7%?

Forgetfulmog Wed 23-Jan-13 15:46:52


Actually, my DSIL was an interpreter for a while, and the NHS was the biggest client of the company she worked for. The cost to the NHS is astronomical. There are two kinds - planned interpreters, and ad-hoc, which are even more expensive. I believe a lot is being done over the phone now to save money

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 15:50:24 shows that census returns indicate 10.7 per cent of people in Boston, Lincs are Eastern European (Poland , Latvia etc) and it has the highest proportion in England and Wales.

So - not exactly 47 per cent Polish, is it?smile

NatashaBee Wed 23-Jan-13 15:52:27

Generally, I do think that if you choose to live in a country you should learn the language. But you would have to be at an extremely high ability level in a foreign language to understand the medical terminology and express yourself clearly when you're in pain or worried - I think the interpreter being present is a safer alternative all round. I can't imagine having to communicate in a different language when I was in labour... I struggled to make myself clear in English!

herladyship Wed 23-Jan-13 15:53:09

If OP does in fact mean Boston, her post is untrue as I've worked for United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust & they use pearl linguistics in MW clinics!

TheLightPassenger Wed 23-Jan-13 15:54:48

I await the OPs link to info about the court case with great interest wink,

Everyone has a right to privacy in medical situations and therefore a qualified interpreter is the correct option. No one should have to discuss personal medical information through a third party who was a family member/friend. It may well be more cost effective in some communities to employ a full time interpreter if the need was great enough. Interpreters can be expensive but are worth paying for - however it is wasteful if an interpreter is booked for an appointment and the client doesn't show up.

HappyJoyful Wed 23-Jan-13 15:56:44

I think you are hugely generalising and making nasty (and racist) comments about the Polish community - without, as many have asked, being able to submit any evidence what so ever.

Many of the Polish or other Eastern Europeans that are here are working hard, it is outrageous and ignorant to state that the 'men are getting 'paid'.

I think you will find many of the Eastern Europeans here are young and try hard to learn the language and work. As many have said, there are huge amounts of immigrants of all nationalities that also don't speak English.. as other's have said and having worked in Social Housing (another area like NHS) where interpreters are needed I have certainly come across many Asian women of a certain age or Somali women living here within tight knit communities speak little or no English and are far more heavily reliant on translation services than the Eastern European community.

znaika Wed 23-Jan-13 15:56:48

I am an Eastern European so not racist against "them" (or us !?) at all but even I think this is absurd. it's crazy expecting the host nation to fund interpreters for people to access state run services- I measn how is this even possible, how many nationalities live in the UK- hundreds of different languages surely? I thought Embassies provided interpreters for people that were in trouble with the law and needed police interpreters.

Also there are such things as English language hospitals- all the expats in Moscow pay loads on insurance and go the the American clinics with English language speaking doctors. I imagine there are similar in most large cities.

SunshineOutdoors Wed 23-Jan-13 15:57:07

I hope you never find yourself in a situation where you need medical attention but you can't understand what the doctor is saying about your condition or the treatment you will receive.

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:01:11

Our NHS policy is that anyone who doesn't speak English is entitled to an interpreter. We use telephone interpretation mostly, but also have face to face if clinically required. Should NHS just turn non English speakers away? Or just test them without actually understanding them or getting informed consent? We do work closely with adult learning and give info about language classes.

A common reason to use interpreters is with dementia, when people often revert to their mother tongue.

Op, yabu

Forgetfulmog Wed 23-Jan-13 16:01:31

The OP appears to have gone AWOL

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Wed 23-Jan-13 16:03:41

I'm also fascinated to find out where this town is that's 47% Polish....

Oh, wait, has the town only got two houses?

Chislemum Wed 23-Jan-13 16:04:38

znaika agree with you that someone who comes to live here permanently needs to learn the language for their own benefit - just like you and I have. I am foreign myself.

However, medical should not depend on whether you speak the language.

Ideally NHS staff should also be required to speak English that can be understood.... not always a given and a bit dangerous when you cannot understand what you are being told.

znaika Wed 23-Jan-13 16:04:50

But do they have people who can speak every language on Earth? Do they keep the interpreters on call. What if it's one person from that language every five years? I'm intrigued as to how this could work- I'm foreign and have never accessed NHS although I lived in the UK for a long time. Explain!
Some of the things people take for granted in the UK are shocking to foreigners!

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Chislemum Wed 23-Jan-13 16:05:31

znaika agree with all you said, just wanted to add that.

t0lk13n Wed 23-Jan-13 16:06:58

I teach in a school with 30% children who are Polish...the children usually go to the hospital appointments to interpret...what probably happened for generations when people emigrated here!

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:07:21

Interpreters are paid by the hour, and are not permanently on call.

(I know this, as I ran a bf support group where we had an interpreter (Urdu), who was paid on an hourly rate to attend).

No one expects public services to provide interpreters for 100s of different languages everywhere.

Chislemum Wed 23-Jan-13 16:07:26

znaika if people need medical care it cannot be withheld just because they cannot speak the language. Yes, it is difficult with interpreters and not sure what the answer is here.... still if someone suffers, would you withhold help?

herladyship Wed 23-Jan-13 16:08:06

Telephone interpreters are multinational companies & hundreds of languages are available at the touch of a button! I've spoken to people via phone interpreter in languages I'd never heard of!

Also had a face to face interpreter for a polish gentleman who needed arm amputation after an accident.. Not everything is appropriate over phone hmm

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:08:21

Using children as interpreters is not good at all.

It may have been done in years gone by.

We know better now, surely?

I really hope you never ended up in a hospital in Europe, or anywhere else in the world. It happens to naice people you know. When you are on work trips or travelling.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:10:05

We're not gonna get the link to the newspaper story about the 'suing for damages' are we?

Can't imagine why not.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:11:29

Toddler, OP will simply go to the local 'bilingual hospital' she is insured for.

There's one of those on every street corner in the world, you know.


EauRouge Wed 23-Jan-13 16:11:58

Tiktok ah yes, Warsaw would make sense grin

I live in E Anglia in an area with a very high population of Eastern Europeans but there is NO WAY that any towns around here are close to 47%. I think it's around 10% E European in some places but that's it. Also all of Eastern Europe is not Poland, there are lots of Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Ukrainians etc.

znaika Wed 23-Jan-13 16:12:50

Thanks herladyship- that makes sense now. A sort of dial up service-cool!

Znaika PCTs usually have contracts with interpreting agencies to supply interpreters as required. not sure about the telephone services but would assume interpreters are booked to be available on the phone during the appointment time.

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:13:46

Znaika, we have a contract with a national company which provides telephone interpreting at a set rate. For common languages we can book interpreters in advance for appointments.

x2boys Wed 23-Jan-13 16:13:51

before people start throwing out racist /troll comments has anybody any idea just how much debt the nhs is in as a front line worker i can tell you people are being redundant jobs are being cut as are servicse [ long before the coalition by the way ] interpreters are just another expanse the nhs does not need it will be privatised soon its already starting in foundation trusts

whiteflame Wed 23-Jan-13 16:14:36

Well, I have just recently had my first doctor's appointment in my second language. I can speak the language passably, but after the experience I can tell you that it is damn hard and you need really good language skills to get things right. And it's not really the place where you want to test out to see if you've got it right, is it?

So while I think people should make an effort to learn the local language, health care is a place where I would think some allowances can be made.

t0lk13n Wed 23-Jan-13 16:15:16

I am not saying it is a good thing but one of necessity for the patient. If you watch Sea Sun and A&E - In the height of the summer season hospitals on the Balearic islands have English interpreters.

znaika Wed 23-Jan-13 16:17:36

Don't be facetious tiktok. Plenty of peole have insurances for medical which covers them all over the world and has evacuation services and they will be taken to private hospitals with English speaking doctors (or other languages). It's also the condition for a lot of visas for people who don't have reciprcoal health agreements.

DeafLeopard Wed 23-Jan-13 16:21:04

I would rather NHS money be spent on translation services so that people can access health care than 750k on art

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 16:21:55

znaika - you're not understanding me. The OP said that she always insured herself to be treated at a 'bilingual hospital'...which are not everywhere. Her point was that somehow non-English speakers coming here should do the same. If 'bilingual hospitals' speaking English are not everywhere, I seriously doubt any Eastern European migrant would be able to insure for treatment at a hospital which spoke Latvian/Lithuanian/Polish/Estonian etc etc.

Renniehorta Wed 23-Jan-13 16:21:56

There is another slant to this. My son is an NHS dental patient at a surgery in a city very near to Lincolnshire but not in it. This surgery only offers an NHS dental service by employing a series of Polish dentists. They have a bilingual English/Polish dental nurse to facilitate communications between dentist and patients.

Nancy66 Wed 23-Jan-13 16:23:17

there are English interpreters at all those clap clinics in Magaluf and Kavos.

Renniehorta yes, my NHS dentists are all polish (or eastern europeans) grin. All the british dentists are private, charging golf course prices. I go to a private myself and he works very reduced hours, 4 days a week.

Emsmaman Wed 23-Jan-13 16:28:41

Not going to get dragged into the debate but I have wondered about this ever since I went for blood tests whilst pregnant and was in the room at the same time as a non english speaker. We were meant to bring a bottle of lucozade with us, and not have eaten for x hours beforehand. As the woman in question did not bring lucozade with her I did wonder if she had also understood that she was not meant eat beforehand. Two issues here: the test could have easily come out wrong if she had eaten, and secondly the staff had to scrabble around for a bottle of lucozade to give her whilst the rest of us had brought in our own.

Wonder if there are English interpreters in China. A colleague was posted in Beijing for 3 months. Supposedly there was hardly any English. Even the canteen menu is completely in Chinese.

I've been to Korea for work and ordered food only knowing it's got chicken or beef in them. Luckily I didn't end up at a hospital! I worked for a university as a research fellow. We were told we'll get biligual hospitals if we ended up in trouble.

I mean we weren't told there are bilingual hospitals.

Quite simply it is the role of the country to meet the needs of its people - that includes immigrants from other countries who are allowed to be here - you can go and live in Poland too you know.

You are racist OP - what's depressing is that you don't realise it.

znaika Wed 23-Jan-13 16:40:48

onelittleterror it's what sets the EU apart from the rest of the world. The way they treat people, any other country I'm sure you;d just have to deal with it on your own and with google translate. In response to others saying how would you feel if you couldn't understand the doctor - well I would prabably just put my life in the doctors hands and not worry as much as you would! This is the different mentality of someone who comes from a country with bad human rights record!

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Wed 23-Jan-13 16:42:33

Still no sign of the link then - quelle surprise! Oops, probably shouldn't say that, might offend the OP's delicate sensibilities to read another language on a British website.

Sam100 Wed 23-Jan-13 16:46:46

I studied in Germany and as a student there you are put on Germany's "free" healthcare system which is called the AOK. I had to visit the doctor a few times and my German was ok but not really competent to deal with medical issues (I was studying business!). Not offered a translator nor would i have expected one. We got by with a dictionary, pointing and pictures!!! I do think that people should be expected to communicate in the language of the host country and if they cannot then they should bring someone who can translate for them with them.

EverybodyLies Wed 23-Jan-13 16:52:20

My parents live in Spain. My mum speaks quite good Spanish but struggles with medical jargon. She takes an interpreter with her, which she has to pay for. As far as I know the Spanish don't provide ex-pats with interpreters free of charge, but I could be wrong about this.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 17:03:48

Still waiting for the relevant links....c'mon, OP, where are they?

ProtegeMoi Wed 23-Jan-13 17:07:35

My mother is profoundly deaf, she cannot hear at all and cannot speak well either.

Should she learn to talk / hear or be denied NHS care also?

If not what is the difference?

Saying your not racist dosn't mean you can then make racist comments without being challenged!

whiteflame Wed 23-Jan-13 17:07:58

Depends on the demand though surely, EverybodyLies? If a significant proportion of the surgeries patients needed an interpreter, do you think they'd reconsider?

whiteflame Wed 23-Jan-13 17:09:16

Protegemoi, presumably your mother would learn to hear if she could? That is the difference.

riverboat Wed 23-Jan-13 17:10:05

Its all very well saying they should 'learn English', but some people simply do not have the ability to reach a decent conversational level, at least not without a long uphill struggle lasting potentially many years. I'm an adult language teacher, and I have taught a few older adults who I cannot imagine ever reaching conversational level no matter what they do. This problem often relates to age: the older you are, often the longer and harder it will be to learn. But I've seen it in younger people too.

So in essence, I think its ridiculous to expect people to just 'learn English' as if it is simple, and deny them help/assistance in the meantime ESPECIALLY in relation to healthcare.

Booboostoo Wed 23-Jan-13 17:10:39

I haven't read the whole thread because I could not be bothered, but yes you are racist and not particularly well informed either.

Here is the NHS interpreter line which has been functioning for many years now and can be used by anyone, for example, Welsh speakers:

Booboostoo Wed 23-Jan-13 17:11:52

P.S. When I used to work in Leeds Medical School a very popular elective was Urdu and Punjabi as a lot of the students had plans to pursue a medical career in the area and these languages were widely spoken by the local population. Fancy that, doctors learning another language, whatever next!

ConferencePear Wed 23-Jan-13 17:13:02

I was once taken ill in France. It never occurred to me to expect the hospital to provide an English speaker.

ProtegeMoi Wed 23-Jan-13 17:13:46

Whiteflame You could argue that my mother 'could' try and learn to speak though, after all she dosn't even try anymore prefering to stick to sign language as that is what she is comfortable with.

What says that all Polish people COULD learn English. What is you were Polish and deaf so could not hear well, how about being Polish and having a learning disability that makes learning hard?

ProtegeMoi Wed 23-Jan-13 17:15:37

Also how do you know these women are not learning English?

They could be going to a weekly language class to learn, it dosn't happen overnight you know so they would still need a translator whilst learning.

Or would you prefer they were denied medical care for themselves and their unborn babies because they don't speak English?

LabelsGalore Wed 23-Jan-13 17:16:05

As a foreigner, I have to say I was extremely surprised to see that the NHS provides an interpreter for people like this.
I have travelled/worked abroad quite a lot and I have never seen that anywhere else apart from the USA where you can have people speaking spanish too in some areas.
I have worked in poland, went (privately) to see a doctor and even then it was expected I could speak some polish. As I didn't, we had to make do with a bit of english and a bit of (not that good for me) french. If it had been serious/issue with pregnancy, I would have taken an interpreter with me.

The issue here is that the NHS is stating clearly that they will provide an interpreter, that you can get leaflets in all sorts of languages. So I can see why a group of people (in this case Polish) would be mifted if they didn't get an interpreter when everybody else seem to do so. Especially in an area where the demands is clearly huge. But then with so many Polish people around, surely they should be able to find someone who speaks english to come with them (even if it's not their husband)?

Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to how much it costs to hire an interpreter?

And if the patient doesn't turn up for the appointment, the interpreter still needs paid.

therugratref Wed 23-Jan-13 17:20:22

If you took the Polish people out of my department alone in the hospital I work in, we would lose 5 dedicated and hardworking nurses, a talented and brilliant audit clerk and there would be no one to clean the floors and empty the bins across the entire 7 days. The NHS in London would be on its knee's without our Polish community.

Bue Wed 23-Jan-13 17:25:22

Hmm I'm a student midwife in a very diverse area with multiple languages and many women who speak little or no English. I have never had someone demand an interpreter. (I have also only ever met a handful of Polish women who didn't have enough English to get through an appointment. Most of them speak passable English.) We do occasionally use the telephone interpreter service but usually we get by with partners interpreting, google translate and lots of gesturing! It is not ideal but we've had quite a few cases where women have refused to use the interpreter service because it's a man on the phone and they don't want to share personal medical details with him. It's not ideal and I've got no answers, but I don't blame the women. Some of them lead very isolated lives and they don't necessarily have the opportunity, or support from their husbands, to go to English classes. I wouldn't trade places with them sad

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 17:26:37

I was just going to we have a link to the story where this mob of non-english speaking women on benefits are taking mass action against the NHS.

I would love to see that. It must take some kind of pregnant, poor, non English speaking woman to organise the Legal Aid for that. Find a solicitor etc.

I work in a specialist children's centre. We have a lot of families to who speak poor English. I very much wish the mothers in particular had better English skills. I think they really should learn English for the sake of their children. It is very hard to negotiate the system for a disabled child without it.
But we never have families turning up for appointments demanding interpreters. They will be asked at an earlier stage if they want one and they will either say yes or no.

Even the newest arrivals with the lowest rate of education can grasp that an interpreter has to be booked.

I am amazed that a population known for their higher rate of education would rock up at maternity expecting an interpreter on tap. In fact it seems incredible

IME (which is a lot as it goes) parents will bring family or friends to interpret.
There are some families where the women never seem to improve their English and this bothers me but they are rarely from places like Poland.

If we do not have interpreters available we put women at risk. They are at risk from overbearing family and friends who will tell the women what they want them to know (I have had this happen at work in the most applling way) or we are putting children in a dreadful position.

I know of cases where hearing children of Deaf parents have had to tell their parent they have cancer.
I also know of cases of ad hoc hospital interpreters (like a sodding porter) being used to tell young women they have gynae problems and that they are evil whores.

whiteflame Wed 23-Jan-13 17:26:53

Fair point in your first post Protege. Some people might have disabilities that hinder them learning the language. But I'm living in a country that speaks a different language, and of the other expats I have met, very few have made any serious attempts to learn the language. They have gone to the beginners class for a few weeks, deemed it "too hard" and then moan that they can't understand their mail from the bank.

I appreciate that it is very difficult and takes a long time to learn a language. It's especially hard in a specialist situation like the doctors... earlier this week I took my dictionary to the doctor's surgery. But a lot of people aren't prepared to put in the effort and it's difficult to sort them out from the people who genuinely can't.

FeckOffCup Wed 23-Jan-13 17:28:47

YANBU to think that people living in this country should make an effort to learn English but YABU to think they should be denied medical care, they may have been in this country for a very short time before becoming pregnant and not have had a chance to become comfident in speaking English before their medical appointments come around. The telephone interpretation service sounds like a good compromise if it saves the NHS money compared to having interpreters physically present.

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 17:29:32

Everybody but they do provide free English classes in a lot of Expat areas don't they?

ESOL classes have been slashed in London. Its so short sighted.

Forgetfulmog Wed 23-Jan-13 17:31:42

Surely it doesn't matter what other countries do or do not have, shouldn't the uk (as a world leader) be setting the standard?

Oh & btw OP, don't bother starting a debate if you can't back up your statements

Delayingtactic Wed 23-Jan-13 17:39:30

I do not rely on relatives interpreting. Because they are crap at it, have their own bias and agenda. I have had times where I've either given a load of information and had the relative say one sentence to the patient or asked a question, the patient has chattered on and the relative turns round and gives a one word reply. It's crap, it's inefficient and its dangerous. I wholeheartedly agree that adequate communication means should be provided for by the NHS.

notcitrus Wed 23-Jan-13 17:39:48

About £50/hour I'd guess, or less if they can arrange to have the same terp all afternoon for a bunch of patients.
Thing is, the question isnt the cost of terps, but how it compares to the costs of dealing with complications and emergencies that could have been more easily resolved if more information had been communicated earlier on. Which in the case of antenatal and delivery care, is probably loads.

For reference I speak fluent non-native German, but I've struggled in medical appointments, only managing because I have medical bsckground and technical words are very similar. I'm also deaf and usually dont bother getting a terp for medical appointments because it usually delays things and is easier just to have stuff typed if necessary. But I did for my first child and postnatal care, because as soon as I'm tired or in pain my comprehension plummets, and so would that for most people labouring in their 2nd language. The only other times I would insist on it would be for legal procedings.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 17:40:37

MrsDeVere, OP has been asked several times for links, and even said she would fire up her scanner (WTF?) but she has i) disappeared and ii) not provided any links

We asked where this place was with a 47 per cent population of Polish people, and where the women were 'seeking damages' from the NHS through the courts.

Answer so far has been a big fat nothing.

Honestly, you couldn' t make it up. Except in this instance, it looks very suspiciously the case that she has.

tiktok Wed 23-Jan-13 17:43:23

Quick Google indicates £13 an hour for interpreters, who need to be trained and qualified to work in health and social care settings.

ProtegeMoi Wed 23-Jan-13 17:52:35

FWIW the NHS have never provided an interpretator for my mother, I go along with her and do it. Which is always nice when it's a smear test and I have to ask my mother questions about her sex life and interpret the answers. She has asked on numerous occasions. I don't really believe this story TBH, but I do think interpretation should be provided and with the number of NHS staff that speak a second language don't believe it would be too difficult.

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 18:01:46

Protege your mother has a right to a BSL interpreter and one should be provided if asked for.
Unfortunately a lot of people do not realise this and will tell you that they can't get one or have no budget etc.

They can and they do.

If you and your mother are ok with the arrangement that is fine but I feel very strongly that children of Deaf parents should never be used as interpreters. Actually I mean that for all children regardless of language.

Some parents prefer it an fail to recognise that it is not in the best interests of their children. My DM has never forgiven her parents and she is now in her 70s. She refused to sign from quite an early age and we were bought up distanced from our Deaf heritage.

I used to see this a lot with the families I supported. Its fine if its a choice but not if it isnt.

Protege your mother has a legal right to a BSL interpreter and should contact her PCT to complain if NHS services are refusing to provide one. Unfortunately staff often do not know how to book BSL interpreters but they have a responsibility to their deaf patients to do so and will usually make more of an effort to find out how to do it if you tell them they have to and you will contact the PCT if they don't.

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 18:09:46

We provide BSL interpreters for deaf patients - and they are a hell of a lot harder to find/more expensive than foreign language interpreters!

It's not always practical to release staff from other duties to interpret for patients not in their area.

We're also trialling video interpretation for BSL.

thanksamillion Wed 23-Jan-13 18:16:41

In defence of the nonexistent Polish women in the OP, I live abroad and have spent 5 years trying to learn the language and it's hard, and frustrating and there have been times (particularly in medical situations) where I've ended up in tears. I'm not especially prone to crying but I've felt so frustrated and powerless (no bi-lingual hospitals here!). So whether or not this story is true, I have to say have a little empathy for foreigners trying to negotiate living in a strange and complicated country with a difficult language to learn.

ihatethecold Wed 23-Jan-13 18:18:18

The cost varies according to the language requested and the travelling time/ distance to the booking

Rare languages like Thai, Vietnamese, Tamil and are very expensive as there are Not many qualified and most of these interpreters live in London.

For the more common languages like the Eastern European the cost to the service provider is about £50 for the first hour.

The most shocking cost is for BSL

You would be horrified to see how much they charge because they are in such high demand.

ihatethecold bear in mind you are probably paying a hefty agency mark up on top of the interpreter's fee!

specialsubject Wed 23-Jan-13 18:24:43

If it IS an EU directive to offer interpreter services, as usual the UK is doing what much of the rest of the EU doesn't worry about.

I've spent some time in the Canaries, where there is a big English expat community for obvious reasons. If you need a doctor and haven't learnt Spanish, you take an interpreter that YOU pay for; there are plenty of people offering this service.

My immigrant forebears learnt English when they came to the UK. I don't see why more recent immigrants should not do the same.

somebody who needs an interpreter due to deafness or lack of speech is a different case.

I also await the link to the legal case. smile

mrsjay Wed 23-Jan-13 18:24:50

criminals are entitled to an enterpretur (sp) these are pregnant women who so happen to speak polish wouldn't be difficult to get 1 for all really isn't a huge deal is it

ihatethecold Wed 23-Jan-13 18:25:11

The mark up isn't much. I work for the agency.
There is so much competition that we cannot charge silly prices.
We often lose money on the rare languages and BSL.

LabelsGalore Wed 23-Jan-13 18:25:22

But each time, I have moved to a new country, I have expected that cuntry to do everything possible so I am OK, just for me because I am not from that country.
I have always expected to take measure so that I could be acred adequately within the existing system, set up for the 'local' people (And certainly NOT for myself).
I also have always expected to learn the language after a while.
I lived for 5 years IN France and did learn French.
I lived 1.5 years in Poland and still learnt some Polish.
All that even though I have done my job all in english and did not really need to learn the local language to work.

As far as I am concerned, the rule has always been:
- If I stayed for a short ish time in that country, I would try to learn a minimum and then have an interpretor with me for any issue such as administrative issue, doctors etc...
If I stayed for a longer time, I would learn the language.

BTW, when I was in Poland, I found that people there are very very well educated. I also was amazed to see operator on assembly online etc... trying to learn english so they could communicate better with top management (who was coming down from time to time). So the 'Oh but they probably can't learn' argument doesn't sit down well with me.

LabelsGalore Wed 23-Jan-13 18:27:15

Sorry meant I would NOT expect that country to do everything just for me.

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 18:28:16

"Criminals are entitled to an interpreter" Mrsjay - don't you think they should be???? shock

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 18:32:09

Of course people can learn to speak English - but that takes time, so what do you do in the meantime?

You're an emergency doctor. If someone turns up to A&E who doesn't speak english do you
a) treat them without communicating with them?
b) somehow (?via an interpreter??) try to figure out how long they've been in the country, how much they have tried to learn English and then decide whether they are entitled to an interpreter or whether you are going to chuck them out or
c) call for an interpreter???

justmyview Wed 23-Jan-13 18:37:24

I stopped reading when OP said "I'm not racist.............but................"

LabelsGalore Wed 23-Jan-13 18:41:03

But we are talking about A&E here are we? We are talking about routine appointments with a MW.
Because they are appointments rather than emergency, then yes I would expect to have and find an interpreter.

At A&E, well, I might not even be able top speak anyway. And if I needed to go because, let's say of a bad fall, then I would still try and take an interpreter with me.
Mainly because that's what I have done in other countries and come to expect when you live in a foreign country.
I would never feel entitled enough to expect that country to bend over just for me especially NOT in a cash strapped NHS

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 18:43:38

Does anyone here know how long it takes and how much it costs to become a qualified BSL interpreter?

A long time and shed load of money.

It is a demanding and pretty tiring job. I wouldn't do it. I used to be fluent in BSL and would communicate for friends and colleagues but no way would I go through the faff of becoming an accredited interpreter.

You don't get to charge those prices just because you know a bit of sign or even if you have been bought up in a Deaf family. You have to train, evidence and PAY for years.

I knew a Deaf woman who was strerilised without her knowledge because no fucker could be bothered to provide interpreting services. She thought she was going in for some sort of procedure. She was in her 20s.

Lovecat Wed 23-Jan-13 18:44:08

There's another issue here, even if these Polish women turn out to be mythical - I work in the NHS in MrsDV's neck of the woods and when dealing with women & children with no spoken English, interpreters are provided (when booked) or sometimes the staff on call (being in London there are many multilingual workers) are able to speak directly to the patient as unfortunately it often happens that the partner does not give a full translation to the patient/not disclose everything that the patient is telling them/the patient will not want to say stuff in the presence of their partner/MIL etc. There have been instances of abuse going on which are covered up by the language barrier.

LabelsGalore Wed 23-Jan-13 18:46:41

Completely agree that people and especially women are much more vulnerable when having move abroad.
And it's not just women with low education. Just have a look at what is happening to some women once they have left the UK with their husband, difficulty to get support for themselves or their dcs.

but then surely, you should take that into account before moving?

Jinsei Wed 23-Jan-13 18:48:38

ihatethecold, I'd love to know where you're based. My DH is a freelance interpreter (in two languages, one "rare" and one more mainstream). The rates of pay for NHS work are so poor that he rarely accepts the face to face jobs these days - they often work out at less than minimum wage by the time his travelling time has been taken into account. Work for other public services tends to be much better paid, presumably because the agencies aren't taking a cut. Telephone appointments or ad hoc requests are increasingly becoming the norm across the board.

To those saying that other countries don't provide such services, I can only note that DH provided similar services for foreign residents when we lived overseas in a non-EU country, and was much better paid for his troubles!

VivaLeBeaver Wed 23-Jan-13 18:49:29

I work as a midwife in an area with a lot of polish, Lithuanian, Latvian women. The majority speak English. Those that don't most will bring someone to interpret. We should and do use phone translators rather than relying on relatives. The odd word been translated by a relative is fine, not the whole conversation though. We also have plenty of staff who speak Russian, polish and will use them when they're about to save money and time.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 18:49:55

specialsubject Wed 23-Jan-13 18:24:43
"If it IS an EU directive to offer interpreter services, as usual the UK is doing what much of the rest of the EU doesn't worry about."

I've seen plenty of leaflets about interpreter services in Swedish clinics and hospitals. The English always seem to think they are the only ones who let immigrants in, take in refuges, provide services for the vulnerable blahablaha.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 18:51:47

If 47% of this town's inhabitants- in other words, pretty well half of them- are Polish speakers, you'd have to wonder why there aren't any Polish speakers in the NHS who could interpret.

Since there manifestly is no such town in the UK, and the OP is therefore manifestly talking bollocks, I don't see why we should believe any other part of her posts.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 23-Jan-13 18:52:31

Oh and I think the 47% population figure quoted in relation to a town population isn't 47% population but 47% of babies born in the town are Eastern European. I did read that somewhere on the Internet recently, but even that I think is exaggerated.

TheVermiciousKnid Wed 23-Jan-13 18:56:01

Blatant shit stirring...

ginmakesitallok Wed 23-Jan-13 18:56:36

labels - given that the majority of non-english speaking people living in the UK are on minimum wage jobs, how exactly do you think they should pay for an interpreter? Whether or not you took an interpreter with you to every appointment you went to in a "foreign country" doesn't take away the responsibility the NHS currently has to communicate effectively with patients. I'm pretty grateful we live in a country which provides interpreters in NHS.

TheVermiciousKnid Wed 23-Jan-13 18:56:48

Oh, and OP (if you're still here...), the plural of woman is women.

eminemmerdale Wed 23-Jan-13 18:58:04

The nearest figure I could find is 35% of the population in Wisbech are Eastern European.

ApocalypseThen Wed 23-Jan-13 19:02:02

Why can racists never write well? It's particularly noticeable when complaining about others' standards.

Orwellian Wed 23-Jan-13 19:03:33

YANBU. The funny thing is that if you were a Brit living in Spain all these righteous Mumsnutters who are calling you a troll/racist would be telling you off for not speaking Spanish. How very double standard and how typical of Mumsnet!

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 19:09:16

Can you find the link to the story Orwellian?

I would imagine its pretty newsworthy. A mass action against the NHS in these straightened times.

weegiemum Wed 23-Jan-13 19:09:37

I volunteer as an out of hours interpreter (I'm fluent in Spanidh, important in Scotland due to fishermen!)

Yes, interpretAtion should be standard,

coffeeinbed Wed 23-Jan-13 19:14:12

it's the way we pay for the cheap cleaning ladies, builders, nannies and so on.
Win some, lose some...

Boomerwang Wed 23-Jan-13 19:16:24

She still not back? Load of bollocks then.

TheVermiciousKnid Wed 23-Jan-13 19:18:42

Still firing up that scanner... Maybe the instructions are in Polish?

Jinsei Wed 23-Jan-13 19:20:06

MrsDeVere, I have searched for the story using a range of search terms. The only thing I found that seemed to relate to the legal action mentioned by theebayqueen was a link to the OP on this thread.

Strange that the only media interest in this story should be a small local newspaper that happens to have no website. hmm

Orwellian Wed 23-Jan-13 19:39:52

So, presumably if there is no issue with interpreters being needed for people using the NHS without being able to speak English, those people also have no problem with Brits in Spain who can't be bothered to learn Spanish and rely on interpreters?

MummytoKatie Wed 23-Jan-13 19:57:24

Aside from the human aspect of it I would have thought that the cost of dealing with the damage caused by a health professional not fully understanding a patient would pay for a lot of interpreters. (I am thinking in particular of a 25 week pregnant woman showing signs of early labour and the possibilty of mis communicating between stomach ache and regular stomach pains that go away and come back again but that is just a random example I made up.)

As the doctor who delivered dd and saved both my fertility and my life was European I am very glad that there is free movement within Europe.

brimfullofasha Wed 23-Jan-13 19:58:23

I know the OP has disappeared and I don't believe the story anyway. However, I work in a job that involves using interpreters regularly to give advice. I make sure I do this because I am responsible for the information I give and want to ensure the vulnerable people I work with understand me. I'm sure most medical professionals feel the same. However, I have known GPs ask women to bring their husbands to interpret for them to appointments when they wanted to discuss domestic abuse or unwanted pregnancies. Most people I work with are desperate to improve their English (especially women who rely on their husbands to interpret for them) but it isn't easy when ESOL provision has been cut massively.

MrsDeVere Wed 23-Jan-13 20:03:23

owellian I would feel the same as I do about anyone who 'couldn't be bothered to learn' a language if they were settled in a country.

Not being bothered is very different from not having access.

So for example, if a woman moved out to Spain with her husband and his family and she was prevented from learning Spanish I would fully support her having an interpreter for important appointments.

If she was going to Spain and simply shouting at people, expecting them to understand her, she needs to sort herself out.

But in the meantime, if she needed emergency treatment, she should get it and someone should make sure she understands what is going on.

Sorry if that make you all sad

It is a minefield with relatives interpreting.
A couple of examples-
I was carrying out sensation tests and asked (via the daughter) for the patient to raise his hand when he felt the tester (his eyes closed)
After a few times I realised he was just lifting his hand. I put the sensor down and sat back. He carried on lifting.
I explained to the daughter that the test was void, I couldn't tell if he could or couldn't feel it.

Asking someone about types of pain - burning, pins and needles, stabbing pain, cramp.

I was told an interpreter was £70 for 30 minutes in our area.
And the places that did book them, many times the patient didn't turn up,

Anyone remember the Holby storyline with the co-joined twins
(Yes I know it's not real life, but some of these storylines make me angry )

A couple arrive in A&E . No english spoken.(Can't remember where from)
The woman is pg (with twins) . How did they travel? Can't fly at that gestation, but hey! This is a soap.
There's an ongoing "we can't treat them, they're here illegally"
But the babies are co-joined and it would be such a coup for the Hospital to safely deliver and operate.

The Consultant (Lyndon) was by their side 24/7 (no other patients obviously) as was the interpreter (ditto).

<<sigh>> Yes because that's how it happens hmm

indahouse Wed 23-Jan-13 20:22:39

I'm most offended with 'The men seem to be able to speak more English than the woman'.

I'm from Eastern Europe and we do believe in gender equality, thank you very much.. You probably see all foreigners as one dark backward mass.

English is compulsory in Polish schools, so you will struggle to find someone from my country with no English at all. Many people will use interpreters to stay on the safe side when dealing with serious issues. Quite often it's the HCP's initiative rather than the patients'. On one remarkable occasion the receptionist at my local GP refused to speak to me without an interpreter. She simply couldn't understand what I was saying. Marjorie Dawes suddenly became very real.

Hesterton Wed 23-Jan-13 20:38:49

indahouse, you should have got a translator to repeat exactly the things you said (in English) to the receptionist (in English).

Maybe she'd have been happy then!

We regularly use translators at my work and they are provided by the local council's own language agency... we pay £26 an hour. The array of languages offered are impressive, but we are probably one of the most diverse areas of London.

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 23-Jan-13 20:43:02

I speak Polish and Romanian and have offered my services to families at hospitals who were waiting to be seen and had difficulty making themselves understood - with the caveat that I couldn't help them with the medical stuff, but could help fill in forms and with the admissions process, and with the basic issue of what the problem was. I agree with Indahouse - sometimes it was a bad case of medical receptionist-itis, and the person who spoke basic, but comprehensible English lost confidence in making themselves understood.

indahouse Wed 23-Jan-13 21:20:00

It really annoys me how DM readers some people assume that most foreigners are on benefits. In fact only 6% of non-UK nationals receive benefits comparing to 16% of 'local' people.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 21:45:48

indahouse Wed 23-Jan-13 21:20:00
"It really annoys me how DM readers some people assume that most foreigners are on benefits. In fact only 6% of non-UK nationals receive benefits comparing to 16% of 'local' people"

And that figure will include people who have been living and working in the country for decades and are fully settled there but do not, for some reason or other, have British nationality. People like myself if I were to lose my job tomorrow: I have had residency (and been paying tax) since the early 1999s, but would be included in the statistics for non-nationals.

cory Wed 23-Jan-13 21:46:23

1990s, even

mrlazysfishwife Wed 23-Jan-13 22:01:42

Indahouse I wonder if you use my surgery?! I have cringed on many many occasions at the receptionist SHOUTING SLOWLY at non-english patients and getting all huffy. It's ridiculously unprofessional, particularly as we live in East London.

I ended up in a Spanish hospital a few years ago. My DH can speak fairly good Spanish (I can order a meal and ask for directions grin) but not enough for the medical stuff to make sense. The doctor that came to see me could speak really good English and explain what needed to be explained.

I honestly believe this country would grind to a halt without all the Eastern European migrants working bloody hard in all sectors. I don't think expecting an interpreter in a medical situation is too much to ask, I really don't.

PandaOnAPushBike Wed 23-Jan-13 22:33:36

Where I live (not UK) you have to speak to a nurse when you ring to make a doctors appointment and they use a triage system. I needed an appointment because I had found a lump in my breast. I was given an appointment 2 weeks away and was very upset about it. My daughter rang them again on my behalf when she got in from school and was given a time later that day. Turns out I hadn't said 'I have a lump in my breast' I'd actually said 'I have a fat head on my case'. hmm

Umlauf Thu 24-Jan-13 08:50:59

I'm a Brit living in Spain. I have been here only 4 months and have fallen unexpectedly but delightedly pregnant. Have paid social security so I'm entitled to state healthcare, but no benefits when have to stop working.

No1 at my surgery speaks English (I asked!) but I dont feel entitled to an English speaking doctor or interpreter. I chose to move here. Instead, I take a dictionary, phrase book, google translate app etc with me. I don't think Yabu to think they should expect an interpreter, although yabu IMO to think the hospital should have been allowed to refuse care. That's not on. And the nhs, like the police, should (&do?) have an interpretation service.

Madmum24 Thu 24-Jan-13 09:23:26

The point is that the NHS (and other government bodies) are REQUIRED by law to provide interpretation services to anyone who needs them. This is why it usually asks you on forms "Do you require an interpreter?"

However, not all healthcare professionals either know this, or just want to pass people off, because they are often told (in my community anyway) that it is the PATIENTS duty to bring their own interpreter, whether it be paid worker or a family member.

I went to visit a friend who had a newborn baby in intensive care (she had only been in the country for about 18 months and only spoke very basic english) and the doctors were doing the rounds and started talking about the babies meningitis; the mother had no idea about this (she thought the baby was in ICU because of breathing problems) and the doctors felt that they had explained it to her and that she had understood. They didn't know that they had to provide the service for her.

Also when I was in labour the midwife kept calling my husband into the next delivery room as there was a lady giving birth (who spoke his language) who didn't have good english and the midwife was extremely ratty when my husband told her to get an interpreter.

Many of the educational institutions in the UK that previously allowed people to study courses (I'm referring to technical colleges, further education etc) changed the rules about 5 years ago meaning that unless you had permanent residency status in the UK you had to pay overseas fees, meaning that instead of £40 for the english class you had to pay £4000, which was a major barrier for many of my own community who were very keen to learn the lingo.

Madmum I'm a kiwi chinese so I have seen this, but in NZ. Back home, the hospital, police etc can have interpreters. It asks on forms whether you need one. However, in reality, the service is very patchy. Most people in the chinese community bring their children as interpreters. You don't want to end up in the situation where you just described. In a hospital and no idea what the doctor is on about.

elizaregina Thu 24-Jan-13 10:06:08


Do you know what the spanish law is on interpreting for eu nationals? Will they not pay for you to have an interpreter to get proper access?

I was in France and my DD had a nasty fall with head injury and vomiting, we had to spend the whole day in the hospital - from morning until late at night so they could observe her. At no point did i see any laminated cards about our access to interpreters - or our rights to have one.

We had to make do in pigeon French and english adn in the end - when I was trying to ask which part of the hospital we were in - as I had to pop out and we had come in via ambulance, a lady hooked up to a mobile drip - shuffled over to interpret for me!

I have to admit it never occured to me that it was some sort of eu cross the board law that we must all have access to medical care in our own language.
We are going to spain soon what can we do once there if we have an accident to quote which law to get an interpreter paid for.

It never occured to me when in France to expect one, especially paid for by them.

We were also sent a bill for the treatment once back in England for about 60 euros - which we duly paid for. As one would expect.

I dont know if matla is in the EU?

My DF was recently there on holiday and took ill - he is on warfrin, cut himself and wouldnt stop bleeding, he went to the docs - covered in blood - and still bleeding, they wouldnt touch him without seeing his insurance details.

When he got to hospital there was also no interpreter provided for him? In pigoen enlgish with help of hand gestures and drawing they explained a small op - to stitch him, he said he had trouble trying to explain to the staff he had no other clothes in hospital with him, so had nothing to wear to get back to the hotel, he also had trouble telling them he had had no food. BUt he managed, he never mentioned /they never mentioned he had the right to an interpreter paid for by them? Maybe Malta isnt in the EU.

I would absoluty LOVE to leave this country but my biggest problem is language, I would of course endeavour to learn the language once there but I fear getting to France or Spain and having problems in the immediate - I wouldnt risk going there pregnant however !!! But I mean - one of the DC has a problem or DH looses job etc...what would be there for us?

elizaregina Thu 24-Jan-13 10:09:29

BTW my friend is a Polish interpreter she works in the north east and makes between 30 - 60 pounds an hour. In hospitals and doctors, she has been to so many different births now she was able to give me a really good idea about epidurals and sections having been with many women whilst having them.

She was offered alot more for police/court work but said she didnt want to work in that sector and have to interpret for people who had committed nasty crimes. She works through an agency and earned so much she not only funded herslef through uni but she also saved 10 grand and put more money into another investment.

ihatethecold Thu 24-Jan-13 10:17:02

Your friend is doing very well earning that per hour. The going rates even for police work is no where near that amount. More like £20 per hour plus travelling expenses.

elizaregina there is always the US, Canada, Australia and NZ grin

Umlauf Thu 24-Jan-13 10:21:13

Hi Eliza sorry I don't know what the law is here about interpreters. I suppose its different if you are on holiday but if you are living in a place long term it is silly not to try and learn the language as it makes life so much easier if you know it. I wouldn't expect holidaymakers to go to everyplace with a working medical knowledge and so for this reason it would definitely benefit all hospitals to have access to interpretation services.

The EU does mean that its fairly easy to live here, and as long as one partner is working and paying tax you both have access to state healthcare, if not you can pay private health insurance. You can also access benefits after a few months as well. My only problem is that as my contact ends 2 months before my due date, I am not entitled to maternity pay, and as I've not been here long enough am not entitled to maternity benefits either so we will be supporting the baby from only my husbands income. Initially we only planned to stay 2 years but husbands job opportunities here are really good and I love what I do (teaching english) and so who knows?!

I've only been for one appointment at the midwives so far but that was highly amusing as I told her I was having my cousins baby when I meant to say I was having my first baby! I don't feel particularly at risk being pregnant here rather than in the UK, if I desperately needed an interpreter I would just ask a friend (but at this stage that would involve telling them that I'm pregnant!!) I figure people have babies in Spain just as frequently as in the uk!

It doesn't matter how good your English is, your average MFL degree course is unlikely to include much coverage of how to describe the consistency of your vaginal discharge, piles or tongue-tie in newborns!

How much of that knowledge goes out of the window when you're in a stressful situation (like labour)?

I live in a French speaking country, I speak passable French, DH is fluent, but we still struggled to explain that we were worried DS had a squint to our (English speaking) French Dr. There are other times when we would need an interpreter. I don't think we'd have the right to an interpreter. Wouldn't that right be covered by UK anti-discrimination laws?

LabelsGalore Thu 24-Jan-13 11:12:09

The thing is being away on hols in a foreign country isn't the same than living in a foreign country.
And having being in that country for 6 months isn't the same than having lived there for 10 years.

When you choose to emigrate, you also take the decision to learn another language. Regardless of your wages etc...
I do understand that learning a foreign language is more difficult for some people than others but surely, you should take that into account before you decide to emigrate?

I think it's the responsibility of the person who decide to move to ensure they are in the best position to live in that country which include being able to receive adequate care but also being able to fill administrative paperwork, take the children to school talk to the teachers etc...
Because if you start going on the route of 'but she/he can't understand clearly what is going on' then surely you should also give a lot of support to 'local' people with very little knowledge of health/healthcare, people with SEN, people with low education levels.
Eg: you should give longer appointments with someone with dyslexia in the same way that you give them extra time at exams.
The reality is that we don't and these people are struggling just as much (even though not in a so obvious way).
So why the difference?

DontmindifIdo Thu 24-Jan-13 13:25:50

elizaregina - the difference in France on holiday is none of your treatment is free - you are expected to pay for it via insurance or be billed for it (as you were), the assumption is the same, as you aren't entitled to free healthcare, you aren't entitled to free interpreter for that healthcare, however they do have a duty to provide one for you, just also that would be billed to your insurance. Most travel insurance policies do cover medical interpreting costs as well (worth checking yours incase this a regular place you go). Same in the UK, even if English is a foreign language, if someone can make themselves understood and dont ask for an interpreter, then one won't automatically be provided.

It is patchy that people in the UK and overseas are aware of the rights to access to interpreters, and it's not always offered without asking.

givemeaclue Thu 24-Jan-13 13:33:32

Huge debate from a made up story!

DizzyZebra Thu 24-Jan-13 15:10:07

How lovely.

What about other none english users? I'll go and tell my daughter to stop selfishly being deaf shall i?

Lilithmoon Thu 24-Jan-13 19:21:07

Quite givemeaclue sad

redexpat Thu 24-Jan-13 20:21:09

I'm British and I live in Denmark. You are entitled to an interpreter for the first 7 years that you live here, after that you have to pay 350kr each time. Here is what is wrong with it:

1. The German speakers (recognised minority) are exempt. German citizens are not.

2. I had state funded lessons for 3 1/2 years. We learned the parts of the body, but nothing more. No internal organs. No ways of describing different sorts of pain. It is a very specialised part of language that you dont encounter until you need it.

2a. The govt has slashed funding for the UK equivalent.

3. The govt didn't bother informing anyone of the change in policy in the 7 years they had before the policy kicked in.

4. All the Drs who work in areas with lots of immigrants were against it, because it doesn't do anything to improve the health of the immigrants. It makes a bad situation worse.

5. Immigrants tend to have more complicated overlapping problems than Danes (much more likely to be HIV+). So they have to come more frequently, costing them more money. Also the danish that they have to understand is more complex.

6. It is the Drs decision to call the interpreter.

7. You can have free language lessons for 3 years. Some people don't start learning for a few years.

8. People who have been traumatized, like refugees, can struggle to learn languages. It's not their fault, but the brain is damaged. So these people are disadvantaged further.

9. If you are in poor health, the chances are you arent in work, and you might not have 350kr, particularly when you take into consideration that you have to pay for perscriptions here.

10. People not educated in Denmark will not necessarily have the same basic understanding of what constitutes good health, so campaigns etc will not be as effective among these groups.

11. I dont think you will believe me but there arent always dictionaries available for Danish. Google translate is vv dodgy.

12. OP you dont seem to realise that the prevalence of english means that you are able to access care in english when overseas. Other nationalities dont have that option.

13. Not all immigrants 'choose' to go to whichever country. They got out to wherever they could, or in some cases were trafficked.

I dont know why I have bothered because OP has obviously disappeared and wont be writing about the excellent points I've made. wink

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