Lost in translation: how much is translation costing the NHS, and how can we both cut costs and improve service provision?

Document type
Gan, Samantha
Date of publication
1 February 2012
Health Services
Social welfare
Material type

Download (648KB )

This report investigates NHS spend on translation services, the overall costs as well as the individual areas of spend. The key messgaes of the report include: trusts spent £23.3 million pounds on translation services last year; the NHS has spent £64.4 million on translation services in the last three financial years, a £9.4 million (17%) increase from 2007/8 – 2009/10, amounting to £59k per day; London trusts comprised only 15% of the trusts surveyed, but were responsible for 31% of the total spend; 45% of trusts could not break down the cost of written translation; and, overall costs of translation are on the rise, whilst the cost of written translation is decreasing, which indicates that it is the cost of interpretation that is rising.

The recommendations of the report include: translate materials into easy read English rather than other languages, and make these materials available across all sites; create a central repository of information that has already been translated into other languages so that it is readily available to all NHS sites; provide more written translations through free web-based translation facilities such as Google Translate; assess population to determine understanding and impact of translated material, e.g. assess patient knowledge, awareness, and uptake of public health prevention information; and, introduce budgetary lines for different areas of translation to allow tracking and transparency of spending

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