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'Poor' NHS interpreting services leading to misdiagnosis and deaths, says group

Calls are being made to improve NHS interpreting services, with staff resorting to online translation tools to deliver serious news to non-English speaking patients.

The National Register of Public Service Interpreters said "poorly managed" language services are "leading to abuse, misdiagnosis and in the worst cases, deaths of patients".

The BBC's File on 4 programme has found interpreting problems were a contributing factor in at least 80 babies dying or suffering serious brain injuries in England between 2018 and 2022.

NHS England says it is conducting a review to identify if and how it can support improvements in the commissioning and delivery of services.

Rana Abdelkarim and her husband Modar Mohammednour arrived in England after fleeing conflict in Sudan, both speaking little English.

It was supposed to be a fresh start but they soon suffered a devastating experience after Ms Abdelkarim was called to attend a maternity unit for what she thought was a check-up.

In fact, she was going to be induced, something Mr Mohammednour said he was completely unaware of.

"I heard this 'induce', but I don't know what it means. I don't understand exactly," he said.

His wife suffered a catastrophic bleed which doctors were unable to stem and she died after giving birth to her daughter at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in March 2021.

He said better interpreting services would have helped him and his wife understand what was happening.

"It would have helped me and her to take the right decision for how she's going to deliver the baby and she can know what is going to happen to her," he added.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) found there were delays in calling for specialist help, there was no effective communication with Ms Abdelkarim, and the incident had traumatised staff.

Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has apologised and said it had acted on the coroner's recommendations to ensure lessons have been learned to prevent similar tragedies.

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Source: BBC News, 21 November 2023


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