Public Sector Interpreting - DNAs - Did Not Attend

31st May 2013

When interpreters are not attending pre-arranged assignments for whatever reason, it can have multiple effects on many parties involved. We call this in the industry ‘DNA’ or ‘Did Not Attend’. Such occurrences happen rarely and are associated with this line of work where travelling to and from different locations of work are unavoidable. However, even in unavoidable situations, DNA can have a direct cost on many parties as described below:

The cost to the customer

There will be a cost to the NHS, e.g. if a surgery appointment cannot go ahead there are huge costs involved.

The NHS also has national targets to hit, and missed appointments will contribute negatively to their results, showing the respective trust or hospital as under-performing.  It is worth pointing out that other patients could be seen at this point, which adds to these ‘inefficiencies’.

A DNA for an assignment at a Police station would mean that a potentially dangerous suspect may have to be released.  The Police only have 24 hours to interview suspects before being legally obliged to release detainees without charge in most instances.

The cost to the end user

The primary purpose of face to face interpreting is to enable communication for non-English speakers in order for them to easily access services such as a doctor’s appointment.  A patient may have been waiting to see a specialist for a long period of time and if the interpreter does not attend for any reason, the patient may miss out on their appointment completely, which they will have to then reschedule. On a more serious note, this may mean that a patient’s illness may go undiagnosed.

The cost to the Interpreter

An interpreter’s reputation is built on reliability, both in terms of their language proficiency as well as their record of fulfilling assignments.  A DNA can damage an interpreter’s reputation and should they require references in future, this could be restricted depending on the circumstances of their DNA. The customer may also request that the interpreter who did not attend their assignment is not used again for the same contract.  Additionally, the service provider may choose stop working with the Interpreter. 

The Interpreting Service Provider

A DNA will damage a service provider’s reputation. The service provider may also face financial penalties if these are pre-agreed with the customer and, depending on the severity of the DNA from the customer’s perspective it is possible to lose a contract due to service level agreements and key performance indicators not being met.

Pearl Linguistics fulfils 98% of our clients’ interpreting requests and has a historically very low level of DNAs. For more information on how we can help your organisation meet its interpreting requirements, contact us on 020 7253 7700 or

Kit Lai, General Manager


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