Policy vs reality: interpreting in health and social care services

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch North Yorkshire undertook research with refugees to highlight the difficulties in access to interpreter services within healthcare systems in North Yorkshire. They undertook focus groups with 49 refugees and carried out our own mystery shopping exercise at 25 pharmacies across the region.


  • Only one in five of the refugees spoken to had access to interpreters at healthcare appointments. Others were refused access to interpreters or were unable to get access to services unless an interpreter was present, but these were not provided by the service.
  • When there is access to an interpreter it is likely to improve patient experience. Similarly, if there is no interpreter or provision is inconsistent, patient experience will be impacted negatively.
  • ‘Google Translate’ is often being used, despite its inaccuracy and often without space for patients to type in their own language.
  • While face-to-face interpreting is favoured, the use of phone interpreters was still preferred over having no provision.
  • People are not actively being given a choice of gender-appropriate interpreters.
  • Booking systems are not clear and not conducive to ensuring interpretive services are in place.
  • There are no pharmacies in the area offer verbal interpretation.
  • Staff and patients are not sufficiently aware of interpreter provision, guidance and responsibilities. Without the confidence to understand the system and go down routes to make an official complaint, it seems the situation is likely to go without resolution for individuals.


There are 12 recommendations covering comprehensive provision of interpreters, monitoring of provision, how staff can identify the need for interpreting services, how interpreting services should be provided and how people with little or no English can be informed about interpreting services


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General details

Report title 
Policy vs reality: interpreting in health and social care services
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch North Yorkshire
Date of publication 
Tuesday, 11 February, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Saturday, 1 September, 2018
Date evidence capture finished 
Sunday, 30 September, 2018
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Health inequalities
Patient records
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Focus group
How was the information collected? 
Engagement Event
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Community pharmacy
GP practice
Urgent and emergency care services 
Accident & emergency

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Not known
Mixed / multiple ethnic groups
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
Refugees or asylum seekers
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
Not known
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.