Southern Trust spending fives times more than Belfast on interpreters

Translators have been provided almost 10,000 times this year in the Southern Trust
Translators have been provided almost 10,000 times this year in the Southern Trust

The Southern Health Trust has had almost five times the number of interpreter appointments as anywhere else in the country in the last year.

Interpreters were used by the NI Health & Social Care Interpreting Service (NIHSCIS) on 9,923 occasions, although the cost the public purse is unknown.

The Southern Trust has one of the largest ethnic minority populations in Northern Ireland and our overall population is projected to grow by 13.5% by 2020 - Trust spokesperson

The next highest number was in the Belfast Trust where interpreters were used a total of 1,879 times.

In the neighbouring Northern Health Trust there were only 1,373 occasions when a translator was required.

Most often, the language that needed to be interpreted was Lithuanian, with 58.5 per cent of all translations.

Next highest was Portuguese at 31.4 per cent, while Russian and Hungarian were the next most commonly translated languages.

The figures were released by the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety following a question to his department by David McIlveen, MLA for North Antrim.

The NIHSCIS has 92 interpreters currently registered with 38 Lithuanian, 20 Portuguese, 20 Russian and 14 Hungarian translators.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “The Southern Trust has one of the largest ethnic minority populations in Northern Ireland and our overall population is projected to grow by 13.5% by 2020. Our ethnic minority population is also likely to increase significantly by 2020 as birth rates continue to keep growing.

“Provision of language assistance is a legal requirement for public sector organisations and as an essential part of providing safe, high quality care to all patients and clients, we are committed to ensuring everyone is given equal access to information about services in a format they can understand.

“With access to interpreters for 36 minority ethnic languages, the Trust provides interpreting services on request to help patients and clients and staff to communicate when using services.

“These interpreters are provided and funded regionally through the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Interpreting Service.”

Facts and figures

NIHSCIS Interpreters are professionally trained and adhere to a Code of Practice/Ethics.

The interpreters are bound by confidentiality and provide their services on a 24/7 basis.

NIHSCIS has 316 Interpreters registered in 36 different languages, providing interpreters for over 282,000 Health and Social Care appointments to date. The service is free-of-charge to patients.

The Belfast Trust provides a Regional Interpreting Service for all Health & Social Care Organisations throughout NI.

The primary aim of NIHSCIS is to significantly improve access to health and social care for patients who do not speak English as a first or second language.

About 4.5% of those residents (81,314) were born outside of the UK or the Republic of Ireland. This represents an increase of 199% in the population born outside the UK or ROI since 2001.