By Stephen Palmer – In the same week that the British National Party launched its regional manifestos promising to put an end to translation costs, news reports reveal that British hospitals are running up record bills for interpreter services.
Several London hospitals have spent over £1 million each on translation services for more than 140 languages in recent years.
Barts and the London NHS Trust had the biggest bill, at £2.2 million.
It was followed by University College London Hospitals Trust (£1.6 million) and Paddington, St Mary's Hospital, King's College Hospital Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Homerton University Hospital, all of which spent around £1.2 million each.
Interpreters and translators are being used to help patients and publish leaflets in Bengali, Cantonese, Somali, Turkish, Polish, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese and French, amongst many others. The results come from a Freedom of Information request regarding spending figures for interpreters from 2007/08 to 2009/10.
The amount is part of Britain’s £120-million plus annual translation bill, which is also used to finance translation services in local councils, police, the courts system and the Home Office.
In January 2010, the estimated bill for translation services in hospitals alone was calculated to be £55 million a year, while a “large proportion” of the 2011 census’s £500-million budget was taken up by translation costs.
Last year, it was revealed that Tower Hamlet’s primary care trust led the spending table, costing £1.32 million a year, followed by Manchester (£1.3 million) and City and Hackney Teaching (£1 million).
The London hospitals defended the huge costs. A Barts spokeswoman said that the trust served areas with more than 140 languages spoken, so "offering access to an interpreter is a crucial part of assisting patients whose first language is not English". King's College Hospital said it served one of the most “ethnically diverse” patient populations in London, with as many as 100 different languages spoken.
The Conservative Party’s response from “Immigration Minister” Damian Green to the statistics has been to suggest that foreigners living here need to learn English, simply meaning taxpayers would have to splash out to fund language courses rather than interpreter costs.
Only the British National Party is committed to removing this wasteful financial burden hanging from British taxpayers’ necks.
In its regional manifestos unveiled at the weekend, the British National Party promised to abolish translation services for all non-indigenous languages, stating that “If immigrants do not respect us enough to speak English, why should they receive a penny of our taxes?”