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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?

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

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

Quite givemeaclue sad

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?

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

Huge debate from a made up story!

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.

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?

MammaBrussels Thu 24-Jan-13 10:40:29

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?

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!

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

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 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

1990s, even

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 23-Jan-13 20:18:05

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

70isaLimitNotaTarget Wed 23-Jan-13 20:11:47

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,

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