Interpreters on Wheels: New iPad trial bridges language barrier between medics and patients at Peterborough's hospital

Four iPads on wheels aim to break down language barriers at Peterborough City Hospital
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A new trial to help bridge any language barrier between patients and emergency department medical staff has been unveiled at Peterborough City Hospital.

The remote interpreting service – called Interpreters on Wheels (IOW) – is being run as a four-week trial 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.

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Whilst North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust has access to a team of in-person interpreters, it is hoped that, if successful, the trial may lead to devices becoming a permanent addition to its remote interpreting services.

The new Interpreting on Wheels initiative being trialled in Peterborough and HuntingdonThe new Interpreting on Wheels initiative being trialled in Peterborough and Huntingdon
The new Interpreting on Wheels initiative being trialled in Peterborough and Huntingdon

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, we believe these devices will be extremely useful for medical staff that need support with communicating effectively with non-English speaking patients.

“We have selected the Emergency Department as the ideal location to launch the trial due to the increased patient footfall, time restrictions.”

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Alex added: “Our emergency department is already a prolific user of remote interpreting services in the Trust. We believe these additional devices will significantly improve access to an interpreter, when required, and help reduce waiting times.”

Staff from the Peterborough City Hospital’s Emergency Department and colleagues from Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon recently received training and live demonstrations on how to effectively use the IOW.

A total of four devices will be trialled; two located in ED and one in the antenatal clinic at Peterborough City Hospital and one in ED at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

In 2022, the Trust utilised remote interpreting, totalling 2,397 calls at Peterborough City Hospital’s Emergency Department, and 202 calls for Hinchingbrooke ED during the same period of time.

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Maria Finch, head of patient experience at NWAngliaFT – which runs Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke hospitals – added: “The Trust recognises that communication and language is important to providing optimal patient care.

“For patients with limited command of the English language, staff understand how a medical interpreter can enhance communication between them and the patient. IOW is another ‘on demand’ support tool that can be used to facilitate interactions; verbal and nonverbal (BSL) with patients.

“All our patients have the right to be heard and make decisions on their care and English proficiency or communication challenges should not be a barrier.”