Interpreting and translation services in the UK

Contact Samir Jeraj

The Race Equality Foundation are carrying out a series of projects and events to look at interpreting and translation services in the UK.  This work is being conducted as part of our role as Department of Health Strategic Partners. We are working with national, regional and local partners across the country in the voluntary, statutory, public and private sectors.

In your own words event

Photos from the In your own words event, 18th November 2011

In your own words was a free learning event organised in partnership by the Race Equality Foundation, Sunderland City Council, Mothertongue, Everyday Language Solutions and the Department of Health to as part of our work looking at the importance of interpretation and translation services (ITS).  It sought to address a number of questions including:

  • How can we best ensure quality assurance for ITS services in health and social care?
  • What is the need?
  • What will happen if nothing changes?
  • How can we improve commissioning of ITS services?
  • Are ITS cost-effective?
  • How do ITS improve the patient experience?
  • How can we achieve equality of care for communities in need in rural and urban England?

A summary report of the day is now available.

Event documents

Presentation Slides

Workshop slides

Comments from the day

  •     “I just want to express my thanks for organising this event; I am very grateful that I could attend this very useful and informative day. I learned a lot and made some very useful contacts. All the speakers were excellent, providing information extremely relevant to my area of work.”
  •     “I found the presentations and ensuing discussions very interesting and informative and outright passionate!”
  •     “I look forward to updates and any future seminars on this and similar topics.”
  •     “I attended the conference on Interpreting and translation services and would like to say a big thank you for organising this event. It was extremely informative and enlightening and was well organised.”
  •     “This has been well organised and really inspirational, thank you.”
  •     “It’s been great to meet so many people across the sector.  The workshops were really interesting and so were the main discussions.”
  •     “It was a rare opportunity for me to meet in one place commissioning professionals, procurement representatives and small businesses specialising in providing interpreting and translation services across England. It was apparent that commissioners did not fully understand the procurement role and procurement looked puzzled by the commissioners’ approach to the market place. Furthermore, it was obvious small interpretation and translation services providers were dissatisfied with the many obstacles to access public contracts.”

Interpreting and translation resources

This page collates resources relating to interpreting and translation.  If you would like to add your own resources to this page, please contact Samir Jeraj.

  • A practical guide to commissioning face to face language interpreting servicing
    Lillie, W, Musgrove, C & Briddon, D, Everyday Language Solutions, Language Point & Newcastle Interpreting Service, 2011
    This guide is written to assist professionals responsible for the commissioning and monitoring of interpreting services.
  • Overhauling public sector procurement
    Towlson, R,, 28 November 2011
    Speaker Renata Towlson produces a blog for, and has written about her experiences and findings at the In your own wordsevent.
  • Managing the demands of mental health interpreting: why training, supervision and support are not luxuries, (237kb PDF file)
    Costa, B, Mothertongue, ITI Bulletin, March 2011
  • The unmet need for interpreting provision in UK primary care
    Gill, PS, Beavan, J, Calvert, M, and Freemantle, N, PLoS ONE 6(6): e20837. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020837
    This study examines how family medicine professionals manage language barriers in consultations. Specific objectives were to: document the number of general practice consultations occurring in a language other than English, document the use of interpreting services and model the need for interpreting within the health authority and potential implications for commissioning of interpreting services the UK.
  • Access to interpreting services in England: secondary analysis of national data
    Gill P, Shankar A, Quirke T, and Freemantle N, BMC Public Health, 9(12), 2009
    This study aims to estimate the number of people requiring language support amongst the minority ethnic communities in England.
  • Health care needs assessment: Black and minority ethnic groups
    Gill, PS
    , Bhopal K J, and Wild RS, in: Raftery J, Stevens A, Mant J (ed.) Health Care Needs Assessment: The epidemiologically based needs assessment reviews, Third Series, Abingdon: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd, 2007.
    This resource provides an overview of needs assessment for black and minority ethnic groups, emphasising general issues pertinent to commissioning services whilst recognising the diversity of migration history, culture, language, religion and disease profiles.
  • Issues in using interpreters in therapeutic work with refugees. What is not being expressed?
    Tribe, R and Keefe, A, European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 11(4), 409–424, 2009
    ‘Interpreting’ could be thought about as a legal equal opportunities or human rights issue. Whereas interpreters are likely to focus on the linguistic issues, and will be aware of the technical complexities of their work. Clinicians may worry about the impact on the therapeutic relationship of the interpreter’s presence, how this will be managed and how it may depend on the match or mismatch of such factors as the client’s gender, age and first or other language.
  • Working through interpreters
    Tribe, R,, 2007
    This article highlights issues for consideration and some guidelines for working with interpreters in medical settings.
  • Working with interpreters in health settings: Guidelines for psychologists
    Tribe, R and Thompson, K, The British Psychological Society, 2008
    Working effectively with interpreters should be a skill which every psychologist possesses. This is to ensure that equal opportunities are upheld and that certain groups are not denied access to psychological services. To achieve this aim, all psychologists should receive training in working with interpreters as a core part of their professional training. If this is not available within your trust, it is recommended that this is undertaken as part of your ongoing continuing professional development. Training courses are available in much of the country. These good practice guidelines give an overview of the issues psychologists need to consider when working with interpreters to ensure that they are able to be as effective as possible.
  • The role of advocacy and interpretation services in the delivery of quality healthcare to diverse minority communities in London, United Kingdom
    El Ansari, W, Newbigging, K, Roth, C and Malik, F, Health and Social Care in the Community, 17(6), 636–646, 2009

    This paper explores the development of bilingual advocacy in East London as method of increasing access to healthcare amongst black and minority ethnic groups.  Bilingual advocacy combines interpretation and advocacy services, and has a number of implications including ‘advocate-related challenges’ such as workload and the position of bilingual advocates relative to other health professionals and ‘client-related challenges’ including language requirements and advocacy needs of clients.
  • Access to services with interpreters: User views
    Claire, A, Edwards, R and Temple, B, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2004

    This report focuses on the experience of users who require interpreters to gain access to health, welfare and other services, considering these experiences in the biographical and cultural context of their lives.  It also seeks to provide guidance for policy makers, service providers and interpreters when working with people with little or no English language competence.
  • The high costs of language barriers in medical malpractice
    Quan, K and Lynch, J, University of Berkeley, The National Health Law Program, 2010
    This study looks at examples of serious medical malpractice in the United States, resulting from the failure to use adequate interpretation services.

Interpreting JISCmail forum

A clear message from the In your own words event was the need for a network/information hub for the ITS sector to link up and share relevant information, articles, concerns and events. The Interpreting JISCmail group provides an online secure forum for discussion, in which members can raise and respond to concerns and issues.

You can subscribe in the following ways:

We would request that once you have joined the forum that you send an email to the group to introduce yourself.  Please explain your connection to interpreting and commissioning interpreters, any concerns you may have or any information you have to share.  As the list grows, it will serve as an important information hub.

Whilst the In your own words event and the consequent “next steps” are focusing on the health sector, it is expected that the Interpreting JISCmail forum will incorporate other sectors too.  It needs to start in order to grow, so please do sign up as soon as possible.