National newspapers recently reported that Polish is now the second language in the UK. This fact inspired a lot of articles written from numerous viewpoints: the problem of the influx of migrants to Great Britain, pressure on public services like education and healthcare, positives and negatives posed to the job market, the changing nature of local communities and cultural tensions to name but a few.
So today, let us look at some procurement topics coming out of Polish being such a major language in the English landscape. I am singling out this language because I am Polish myself. I am also concentrating on Polish in my capacity as an interpreter and translator and also as a category manager within a public procurement function. As seen in the Better Health newsletter
, the current time can be seen as especially challenging: “The multilingual landscape presents challenges to both providers and the users of health and social care services, particularly since this era of ‘super-diversity’ coincides with a period of austerity."
Interpreting and translating services contribute to big non-pay spend within the healthcare economy. It is NHS’ duty to aim for clinical excellence, and interpreting services to patients who cannot speak English is not only an equality and diversity demand but also a clinical necessity to ensure the right outcome for healthcare clients. In a constant search for efficiency and sustainability of public services, interpreting category poses
a lot of new challenges.
It is well understood that an interpreter engaged in clinical services should be a trained professional. It is a pre-requisite of the interpreter to be not only a source language expert but also a well-suited personality, whose body language and demeanour make an interpreting experience both for the clinician and patient empowering, comfortable, unassuming, subjectively objective and confidential. But this comes at a high cost.
So, how can procurement assist in the tendering processes to ensure that this complex service is never lost in translation?
Beverley Costa, the CEO and founder of Mothertongue discusses in Briefing series: Better Health 26 (idem)
, interpreting volunteer services and the study of child language brokering. There is evidence that interpreting volunteering services work well within set range of parameters.
Volunteer Language support says Beverley, offers an efficient use and saving of resources. These saved resources can be deployed effectively to pay for Professional Interpreting Services where they are assessed to be most useful and necessary.
It is my intention, when the Interpreting and Translation Services Contract comes up for re-tender in my organisation, to set up a procurement model that supports collaboration between professional interpreting services, which are primarily delivered by private interpreting and translation agencies, and volunteer schemes that are free of charge and use staff, families and friends.
I would be very interested to hear whether there are any such schemes out there and if so how they operate to ensure that the NHS, as a service, is never lost for words.
☛ Renata Towlson is a category manager at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust