Translation Industry News | 10.08.2009

HSE produces emergency multilingual aid for healthcare professionals

The Health and Safety Executive has published an emergency multilingual aid for healthcare workers; this initiative hopes to improve communication between medical professionals and those who speak little or no English.

The aid is not intended as a replacement for interpreters, but rather as a communication tool for use on initial contact with a patient. People with limited English may find it difficult to describe any pain or symptoms that they are experiencing. In an emergency situation this can be extremely distressing for the patient and the health worker alike.

Alice O’Flynn, speaking on behalf of the HSE, outlined the purpose of the aid:

“We have had a lot of interest … from our colleagues who deliver healthcare in the community, such as primary care teams – GPs, public health nurses, dentists – mental health and social workers, where they would see many patients and service users who do not speak English as their first language.”

Having spoken to the patient, a health professional will then be able to arrange for an appropriate interpreter to help the patient communicate. A professional interpreter is vital in the health and medical sector. Time and accuracy are paramount in medical dialogue; miscommunication could lead to a potentially fatal misdiagnosis. Only through the use of a skilled interpreter can a non-English speaking patient communicate their problem effectively.

The emergency multilingual aid is available to download in 17 different languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German and Russian.

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