NHS translation bill tops £23m, says 2020 Health

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The NHS in England spends £59,000 a day on translating documents and providing interpreters, according to a health think tank.

A Freedom of Information request by 2020 Health showed the total bill topped £23m last year - an increase of 17% since 2007, it said.

The organisation described the amount of money spent as "truly staggering".

The government said the NHS had a duty to ensure patients and doctors could communicate with each other.

The report collected data from 247 NHS trusts. It said most translated from English into between five and 25 different languages. However, it said some translated into as many as 120.

In the past three years, it said, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £3.7m; Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spent £2.4m; and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London spent £2m.

The think tank's chief executive, Julia Manning, said: "The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity.

"Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs.

"The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents."

The organisation suggested using free internet translation software and easier to understand English rather than medical jargon.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "NHS trusts have a duty to follow equalities legislation. This includes making sure their communities can understand information about the trust's services, and that patients and clinicians can communicate with each other.

"However, we would encourage trusts to save money where possible by working together and sharing resources."

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