Language barriers in UK healthcare are highly impactful on the patients, healthcare providers and on the healthcare system itself. The following findings from different studies give a small insight into this impact:
- Those from deprived communities may treat healthcare as an emergency rather than a necessity, leading to poorer outcomes
- Patients who have a language barrier may feel isolated, frustrated and scared during a healthcare visit
- Patients may miss out on important or even life-saving treatment because of miscommunication
- Healthcare workers in the UK can lose up to half a working day a week trying to overcome language barriers
As the UK becomes more diverse with many different languages, this important part of life continues to be negatively impacted, with an urgent need for barriers to be overcome in order for vital treatment to be accessible to everyone.
How Can Language Barriers In UK Healthcare Be Overcome?
The route to improving language barriers is a complex one that isn’t going to be solved quickly. However, there are some improvements that could be made fairly easily, and quickly, to have a massive positive impact on the healthcare experience for both providers and patients. Here are some ways that language barriers in UK healthcare could be overcome:
Improved Interpreter Services
As it stands you can ask for an interpreter to speak to you on NHS 111, and you can ask for an interpreter to be available when you attend an appointment. However, this may mean that you have to wait a long time for your appointment (on top of long waiting times within the NHS).
To improve this, more interpreters being used within healthcare would be a great boost, as well as a greater range of speakers who can speak different dialects for a more meaningful exchange.
Better First Contact
The language exchange itself when a person has accessed healthcare is important, however, many don’t get that far because they are unable to even make first contact with services. Inadequate additional language signage at the doctors, struggling to register with a GP, no knowledge of how to ask for an interpreter, and no ability to read online information are just some problems that stop non-English speakers accessing healthcare. Using accurate website translation, translated signage, phone system foreign language voiceover options are all ways to actively help non-English speaking patients have a better first contact experience.
Increased Language Abilities Of Staff
Where it is possible to employ bilingual staff the healthcare setting can only benefit as the language abilities in that environment become more diverse.
Using Visual Prompts
One simple way that healthcare exchanges can be more effective is with visual prompts like models, pictures and diagrams. If these can be made available within a healthcare setting there is an instant boost in information being provided and received with minimal cost or effort.
Better Translation Of Text Communication
If information is sent to patients via a letter or a video, using professional translations is an easy way to ensure information is delivered accurately. If the right information is sent out, including clear directions to finding further information, the person is more likely to seek further help in the most effective way, and also receive the information from their healthcare provider clearly.
There’s A Long Way To Go To Ensure Language Barriers To Healthcare Are Overcome In UK
The information above is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to language barriers and healthcare in the UK. What is absolutely true is that the UK is becoming rich and diverse quickly, and to ensure that everybody has equal access to the healthcare they need, all and any tools such as accurate translation, better interpreter services and better visual communication need to be utilised.
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