Fifth of healthcare professionals face language barriers at work

Healthcare workers in the UK are losing as much as half a working day every week overcoming language barriers, according to a new survey.

Some people working in UK healthcare admitted that there has been a time during their career that communicating with a patient or colleague with English as a second language has prevented, or delayed them, from giving the best care they could.

A fifth of those surveyed said they have faced language barriers when communicating with colleagues and patients, as often as every day.

The findings have been revealed in a new report conducted with 1,000 healthcare workers from across the UK by Pocketalk, a digital translation service which partnered with healthcare providers during the pandemic to help overcome language challenges.

During a typical working week, it’s reported that as much as four and a half hours every week are spent by nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals managing communication breakdowns, born from language barriers.

Joe Miller, general manager at Pocketalk, said: “The UK is made up of a vibrant mix of ethnic groups and addressing diversity in healthcare can literally save lives.  To best communicate, understand, and treat patients with the best care possible, it’s vital that patients and their families are understood.

“We commissioned this piece of research because we believe this issue needs support and it’s needed more than ever as our country looks to welcome thousands of Afghan refugees into the UK to rebuild their lives.

“More than a third of the healthcare professionals that we asked said that it is difficult to access effective and timely translation services and we want to change that. It’s great that technology is addressing these challenges and it’s encouraging to see the latest budget announcement include digital tech in healthcare. Not only can tech help doctors and nurses and other medical professionals do their job but, it also allows for vital relationship building, which is crucial within the healthcare sector.”