Nurse on the phone

We have a statutory and moral responsibility to our patients and the public to ensure the services we provide are equally and easily accessible to all sections of the communities we serve.

Patients must be able to access our services in a way that ensures their language and communication needs do not prevent them from receiving the same quality of healthcare as others, and we recognise that patients, service users, carers, and family and friends may have difficulty with complex medical language and the written word when discussing medical conditions and giving informed consent for procedures.

We are committed to ensuring effective communication and full participation with patients, service users, carers, family and friends. To this end, the trust offers an interpreting and translation service, provided by an external company, who use carefully screened and qualified interpreters, offering a strictly confidential service in a wide range of languages. 

There are four main types of interpreting provided by the trust:

  • telephone interpreting 
  • face-to-face interpreting
  • video interpreting
  • sign language interpreting

If you are attending one of our hospitals for the first time, your GP or referring hospital should notify the hospital of your need for communication support and this will then be arranged by hospital staff. 

Most patients will be provided with telephone interpreters, while face-to-face interpreters can be booked if there is a specific need for it. Communication support can also be provided for follow-up appointments. 

Telephone and video interpreters do not need to be pre-booked, so when attending your appointment, please just inform reception staff at the clinic that you require interpreting services. 

There may be times when a face-to-face interpreter is required, but this will be identified and booked by hospital staff.

If you require face-to-face communication support for follow-up appointments, please let reception staff know before leaving the clinic and they will arrange this for your next attendance.

British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, lip speakers and touch sign interpreters are also available through our provider. 

Please note that BSL interpreters should be booked as far in advance as possible (at least 10 working days) to ensure availability. We will always do our best to source a sign language interpreter, even if the notice period is less than 10 working days.

The use of family, friends or unqualified interpreters is strongly discouraged and is not considered good practice. 

Using family or friends to interpret information may compromise patient safety and confidentiality, and family or friends could be biased, selective or inaccurate in the information they relay to you. Indeed, the error rate of untrained interpreters may make their use more high risk than having no interpreter at all. 

However, patients do have the right to refuse an interpreter and to invite a person of their own choosing to act as an interpreter on their behalf. If so, it will be explained to you that it would be in your best interest to use the service of a professional interpreter for clarity and understanding. 

If it is expressly desired that a family member or friend acts as interpreter, your informed consent will be sought in your own language and sought independently of your family member or friend. 

The offer of using a professional interpreter, and your choice not to do so, will be recorded in your medical records prior to the consultation taking place.

Children under the age of 16 will not be allowed to interpret for a friend or relative. 

If a patient brings a child to interpret for them, it will not be facilitated, and a professional interpreter will be offered instead. 

Even in the case of acute emergencies, staff will only ever use the accompanying child to elicit and communicate basic information, for example, what happened, what the patient’s name is etc.

If you wish to confirm an interpreter has been booked, you should contact the clinic that you will be attending, as they will have facilitated the booking. 

To help them deal with your enquiry you should provide details of your hospital appointment, your communication requirements and your date of birth. 

Alternatively, you can contact:
•    Barnet Hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team:
•    Chase Farm Hospital’s patient experience team: 
•    The Royal Free Hospital’s PALS team: 
•    Head of patient experience and interpreting: