There’s a bit of an uproar in the press this week about how much the NHS spends on translation services.

According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by a health think tank, the NHS spends £59,000 a day on translating documents and providing interpreters – over £23 million in the past year.

The think tank is outraged:

The think tank’s chief executive, Julia Manning, said: “The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity.

“Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs.

“The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents.”

The organisation suggested using free internet translation software and easier to understand English rather than medical jargon. (Source: BBC News)

As the Department for Health pointed out in response, the NHS has a duty to ensure patients and doctors can communicate with each other. It’s very important to give accurate information when it involves someone’s health; one mistranslated word from a free translation website could make a big difference. Some NHS trusts also have up to 120 languages to translate into, perhaps they’re not all covered by free software?