Cultural diversity and its implication for NHS services

8th Feb 2013

Polish is now the main language spoken in England after English, according to 2011 Census data released by the Office for National Statistics.

After English and Polish, the most frequently spoken languages in England and Wales are the Indian and Pakistani languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati which account for nearly a million people. They are followed by Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese.

Multiculturalism is most prevalent in London, with 22 per cent of inhabitants saying English is not their native tongue. As Britain's Eastern European and West Indian population has steadily grown in size, many doctors and nurses have found that an increasing proportion of their patients belong to one or the other of these ethnic minorities. Many are finding it difficult to provide effective health care to such patients and they have problems that lie largely at a linguistic and cultural level as a great number of patients are non-English speaking or have limited English.

Such comprehension problems have lead to a heavy demand for translation and interpreting services. It is well established that language barriers contribute to health inequalities.  What is more, caring for a large number of patients with limited English can be stressful, time-consuming, risky and - as communication is so fundamental in the doctor-patient relationship - unsatisfactory.

The importance of using interpreting and translation services may be summarised as:

· Interpreters ease the tension and frustration experienced by patients who do not speak English and thus improve the quality of patient care.

· Limited English speaking patients without interpreting access return to emergency care more frequently than interpreted patients, increasing the cost of patient care.

· Limited English speakers without Interpreters incur higher charges and longer stays than other patients, increasing the cost of patient care.

· Without effective in-language communication “Did Not Attend” (DNA) costs increase. DNA expenses are currently estimated to cost the NHS over £400 million per annum.

· Many limited English speaking people admit they wait for an emergency to seek health care, as they fear a situation where they cannot clearly communicate

· The risk of litigation is significantly increased if care is not provided in line with equality, human rights and regulatory frameworks.

· Translation of medical leaflets, brochures etc ensure patients better understand medical treatments and medicines used.

So, are you in need of breaking down language barriers?

Pearl provides professional, cost effective translation and interpreting services. Contact us today on 020 7253 7700 or email us at for more information on our linguistics services.

Agata Krupa, Translation Project Manager


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