York & North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire refugees 'struggle to access pharmacy interpreters'

Pharmacy sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Only four out of 25 pharmacies in North Yorkshire were able to provide an interpreter, the watchdog said

Some refugees seeking medical help are struggling to access interpreter services, a watchdog has said.

Charity Healthwatch North Yorkshire carried out an investigation at 25 pharmacies across the county, seeking advice for Arabic speakers.

Only four were able to provide an interpreter. One suggested "calling round until they got a Muslim pharmacist", it said.

The NHS said no-one should be disadvantaged in accessing care.

The charity said it used "mystery shoppers" at pharmacies across the county to look at how refugees were able to access medical treatment.

Health professionals relied on online translation services it said, despite NHS guidelines saying to avoid it.

'Significant inequalities'

The charity's report also highlighted problems accessing interpreter services at other health care providers, including dentists.

Nigel Ayre, from Healthwatch North Yorkshire, said: "Our findings show refugees face significant inequalities when it comes to accessing healthcare.

"NHS guidelines state their communication needs should not prevent them receiving the same quality of healthcare as others, but this is not reflected in the experiences of those we've heard."

A spokesperson for the NHS in North East and Yorkshire said: "As per recent NHS England guidance, providers of NHS services are expected to offer access to interpreting and translation services to people where needed. No one should be disadvantaged."

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"The NHS is working with other government departments, including the Home Office, to improve access to all through practical and digital solutions," the spokesperson added.

Ian Dean, chief executive officer of Community Pharmacy North Yorkshire, said community pharmacies were already working "to help reduce health inequalities".

However, he said he supported the commissioning of new services to enable additional support where it could benefit local communities.

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