'Interpreters on wheels' service set to reduce communication barriers at Peterborough City Hospital

The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust has software that has the knowledge of 270 languages.
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A service to help bridge any language barrier between patients and medical staff has been made permanent after a successful trial at Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals.

Demand for a remote interpreting offering - called Interpreters on Wheels – has also led to the service being expanded to more widely across clinical areas, and is being introduced at Stamford & Rutland Hospital for the first time.

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The trial ran for a couple of few weeks last summer to provide additional support for medical staff in communicating effectively with non-English speaking patients, as an innovative way of helping to reduce waiting times.

Interpreter Andrea Goodman with Assistant Chief Nurse Laura Stent and Linguistic And Interpretation Service Co-ordinator Alex Papp.Interpreter Andrea Goodman with Assistant Chief Nurse Laura Stent and Linguistic And Interpretation Service Co-ordinator Alex Papp.
Interpreter Andrea Goodman with Assistant Chief Nurse Laura Stent and Linguistic And Interpretation Service Co-ordinator Alex Papp.

The trial took place in the Emergency Departments at Peterborough and Huntingdon, as well as the antenatal clinic in Peterborough.

The service will now be rolled out to: - Maternity Service, Peterborough City Hospital.- Fracture Clinic, Peterborough City Hospital.- Outpatients, Hinchingbrooke Hospital.- Outpatients, Stamford & Rutland Hospital.- Outpatients Peterborough City Hospital.- Maternity Service Hinchingbrooke Hospital- Ambulatory Care Unit Peterborough City Hospital

The expansion of remote interpreting services now fully complements North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust’s already in-demand in-person interpreter offering.

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The IOW expansion comes at no real extra cost to the Trust as it already owns the iPads and the trolleys are supplied by free of charge by the Language Service Provider.

The Trust’s online interpretation supplier Language Line offers live dial-up access to interpreters remotely, based in the UK and overseas and in over 270 different languages. It can provide an interpreter in less than 30 seconds (on average), including out of hours.

Alex Papp, the Trust’s Linguistic And Interpretation Service Co-ordinator, explained: “The IOWs are essentially trolleys on wheels with a securely encased iPad offering the ‘Language Line Insight’ app.

“By offering increased mobility and the single interpreting functionality, these devices are extremely useful for medical staff who need support with communicating effectively with non-English speaking patients.

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“Not only does this tool provide a more streamlined and reliable patient experience, but it can reduce a patient’s waiting time and helps medical staff maximise their time to care for patients.”

During the trial – 232 calls (audio and video) were placed in over 35 different language. There was an increase of 106% in the overall number of calls placed in July 2023, coupled with a 127%increase in usage in August 2023 compared with the same period in 2022 .

The Trust now has 27 IOW devices and is looking to expand this further to the hospital wards.

Maria Finch, Trust Head of Patient Experience, said: “Good communication is important to providing optimal patient care. All our patients have the right to be heard and make decisions on their care. Their ability to speak good English should not be a barrier.

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“The IOW is a great ‘on demand’ support tool that can be used to facilitate interactions, both verbal and nonverbal (through British Sign Language) with patients.”

Meanwhile, the Trust has appointed Andrea Goodman as in-house Portuguese interpreter, helping to provide vital communication between our patients and staff and further advancing the service.

Andrea has worked as an interpreter in the UK for the past 13 years, providing services for the Home Office and working as a freelance interpreter for interpreting agencies. As a freelance worker, Andrea had opportunities to interpret within NHS settings such as GP surgeries, physiotherapy, mental health clinics and hospital wards, including surgical.

She said: “Working as an interpreter has given me a strong understanding of the importance of enabling communication between patients and medical professionals.

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“I have experienced very sensitive and emotionally charged situations helping victims of crime, different types of abuse and terminally ill patients. This has given me an understanding of how deeply emotional these situations can be, and how important it is to remain within the boundaries of my role and at the same time achieving the right balance between acting positively and respectfully, while remaining neutral and compassionate.”

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