Service Provision

1. Population Needs

Why interpreting services are required?

Effective health care has been described as including an understanding of the cultural systems of patients and communities and the factors that may assist or hamper effective healthcare delivery.  Language and communication discordance is a common cultural obstacle to providing this effective care.

Language and communication barriers can:

  • Decrease a patient’s understanding of their health needs and the ability of the health service to meet those needs.
  • Create difficulties in determining accurate medical histories, including vaccination status
  • Result in a lower likelihood of the patient receiving an appropriate referral
  • Affect a patient’s ability to comply with discharge instructions and follow-up appointments in a timely manner

 Local context

Statutory Duty

All NHS Organisations have a statutory duty to ensure equality of access to its services and not to directly or indirectly discriminate against its services users.  NHS Trusts will commission translation services in line with standards that are set down by regulatory authorities.  The main legislation which applies to this area is:

  • NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002
  • Human rights Act (1998)
  • Race Relations Amendment Act (2000)
  • The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Disability Discrimination Act (2005)
  • Equality Act (2010)
  • European Convention on Human Rights 1950 and any future revisions.


Newcastle Demographics

Newcastle PCT covers a population of 273,000 people registered in 36 GP practices, 42 dental practices, 63 community pharmacies and 40 ophthalmic practices.

Between 1991 and 2001, Newcastle’s black and minority ethnic (BME) community grew by 60% to nearly 6.9% of the total population.  By mid 2007, the BME population had increased to 10.7% of the total population, compared to 11.8% nationally.  The largest BME group was Asian or Asian British, comprising 5.7% of the population, (some wards have higher Asian population, for example 21.9% in Wingrove), 1.4% of the population was mixed ethnicity, 2.3% Chinese or other and 1.3% Black or Black British.

The latest school census information shows that of the school population in Newcastle (37,030), 16% are from black and ethnic minorities and 14% have a first language which is not English.

North Tyneside

North Tyneside PCT covers a population of 197,300 people registered in 29 GP practices, 28 dental practices, 53 community pharmacies and 20 ophthalmic practices.

Approximately 3.9% of the population of North Tyneside are from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups, compared to 4.5% in the North East and 11.8% nationally (mid-2007).  In North Tyneside the BME population increased from 5,100 to 7,700 (51% increase) between 2003 and 2007.


Northumberland Care Trust covers a population of 330,000 people registered in 46 GP practices, 44 dental practices, 77 community pharmacies and 39 ophthalmic practices.

Between 2003 and 2007 (the latest year for which data is available), Northumberland’s black and minority ethnic (BME) population grew by 58.7%, from 4,600 to 7,300.  People from BME groups now represent 2.3% of the Northumberland population, compared with 4.5% in the North East and 11.8% nationally.

Local Service Requirement

The NHS actively encourage the promotion of equal access to their services by fully acknowledging the personal, religious, linguistic and cultural needs of patients and their families.

 In order to minimise the effect of language and communication barriers, an Interpreting Service is provided for patients accessing services.

 2. Scope

Aims and Objectives of Service

The aim of the service is to enable patients, for whom English presents a significant language or communication barrier, to have access to a high quality and confidential interpretation service.  This also applies to patients whose English is not a barrier, but who require an interpreter for their carer or parent.

Language Empire will deliver interpreting and translation services for GP Practices, Dentists, Pharmacists and Optometrists (known as authorised users) in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland as part of a core service model.

An opportunity exists for additional business across a range of existing customers on an as-and-when basis. 

The purpose of our Interpreting Service is to help:

  • Promote equal access to health and social care services for patients who experience a language or communication barrier
  • Promote best practice in the field of interpreting
  • Achieve the highest level of competence
  • Protect the privacy of all parties and the confidentiality of information
  • Maintain professional conduct and comportment

 The expected outcomes are:

  • High levels of satisfaction from patients accessing the service
  • High levels of satisfaction from health and social care professionals accessing the service
  • Timely access to interpretation services
  • Positive responses and actions to patient and peer feedback on service improvement

 Service model

Service Description

Language Empire will deliver the following services responsively and effectively:

  • Face to Face Translation: We will provide face to face interpreters for most common languages and we have the capacity to provide face to face interpreters.
  • Telephone Interpretation: Language Empire will also provide telephone “on-the-line” interpreting service covering 150 languages for emergency use and to cover languages with limited local resources.
  • Written Translation – to and from English

 Booking requests

Language Empire will deal with all booking requests from GP Practices, Dentists, Pharmacists and Optometrists in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.  Booking requests will only be accepted from these authorised users.  Language Empire will have a suitable booking system which contains the following minimum information.

Please click here to view the Booking Request Form used currently.   [f1] 

A patient may request (through the authorised user) for an interpreter of a specific gender. Language Empire wherever possible will try to meet these requests.

Booking Confirmation

Language Empire will confirm the result of each booking request with the name of the allocated interpreter and a unique job reference number.

 If no face-to-face interpreter is available, the authorised user will be informed personally and reminded that they can use telephone interpreting at the time of the appointment.

Language Empire will work with individual authorised user to meet a need for block booking when the organisation is able to arrange sequential appointments for clients with the same language needs.  Charging is based on the time for which the interpreter is booked.

 Confirmation Response Times

Language Empire will respond to:

  • All urgent bookings (i.e. request an interpreter for the same day or for the next day) within one hour.
  • All non-urgent bookings within 24 hours.

Variations and cancellations of bookings

Language Empire will only accept cancellations or variations to booking requests from the authorised user and not directly from patients or from other sources.

Language Empire should be able to receive cancellations during the same hours of availability for booking requests.

Language Empire will not charge for cancellation made more than 24 hours before the booked appointment time.  However if cancellation is made within 24 hours of the booked appointment time, Language Empire will charge the full amount of time for the booking, as Language Empire will pay their interpreter for the full booked appointment time.

Any Acceptance and Exclusion Criteria

Acceptance Criteria

Language Empire will respond to the requests made by authorised users registered with Language Empire, on the assumption that the authorised user has determined that the patient is eligible for health care from the authorised user, and therefore eligible for an interpreter.

Exclusion Criteria

Patients, who are not eligible for free NHS care, would not be eligible for an interpreter paid for by the NHS organisation.  However, if they are receiving private treatment from an NHS organisation, arrangements can be made for interpreting costs to be billed to the private patient.

It is not the responsibility of Language Empire to decide whether a patient is eligible to use the interpreting service or not, as Language Empire will respond to the requests made by their authorised users who have the information and responsibility to make this decision.

 3. Service Standards

Eligibility to Provide Services

Language Empire will undertake as a minimum, pre-engagement checks as detailed below in respect of any interpreter employed or working as a freelance prior to their commencement of work as an interpreter for this service.

Pre-engagement Checks

Interpreters will be asked to provide original documents to establish their identity and qualifications and Language Empire should not under any circumstances accept duplicates or photocopies.  Language Empire should be aware of their own responsibility for checking the original documents and initiating any additional security checks required.

Language Empire must ensure that interpreters are entitled to work in the UK.

Language Empire should obtain a minimum of two references per interpreter to indicate suitability for employment or engagement with the Interpreting Service.


Language Empire and any interpreters employed or sub-contracted for engagement in this service must comply with legal obligations on data protection and confidentiality.  This includes the Data Protection Act 1998, Human Rights Act 1998 and common law of Confidentiality.  They must also conform to the NHS Code of Conduct on confidentiality and Language Empire must have systems and policies in place to support this, including ensuring interpreters are appropriately trained.  Prior to undertaking any work as part of the Interpreting Service, each employee or sub-contractor will be asked to sign a confidentiality clause meeting statutory and NHS requirements.


Language Empire will ensure that all training and induction materials are available to our interpreters on request and make any changes specific to NHS requirements as requested by the authorised users.  Employees of Language Empire will undergo an appropriate course of induction training and assessment to include:

  • Patient confidentialityRole and boundaries of interpreters
  • Safeguarding Children and vulnerable adults
  • Procedures during face to face interpreting sessions
  • Medical terminology – basic level
  • NHS services
  • Geographical knowledge of area covered by Language Empire
  • Claims for time and expenses
  • Risk, health and safety

 On-going Support for Interpreters

Language Empire is responsible for ensuring all interpreters engaging with this service (employed or sub-contracted) undertake relevant Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This should include:

  • Completion of training sessions to reinforce good practice and improve skills in subjects relevant to the areas in which they work
  • Provision of evidence to demonstrate the essential skills and knowledge required for the job and that these skills are continually being developed

 Monitoring of the Interpreters’ Performance

Language Empire will have a mechanism in place to monitor the performance of their interpreters in the following areas:

  • Punctuality
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism
  • Validity of their claim forms
  • Feedback from patients/authorised users

 Complaints Handling

Language Empire will operate and publish a procedure for logging, managing and resolving complaints.  The procedure will allow for the identification and tracking of individual complaints from initiation to resolution as well as monitoring of trends or themes (subject to any supervening dispute resolution procedure).  Under normal circumstances, complaints will be resolved within 20 working days of receipt.  The level, nature of complaints and corrective action (or that proposed) will be reviewed by the Contract Manager and Language Empire, periodically, and as appropriate.

Continuous improvement

Language Empire will incorporate the views of patients and their authorised users through the use of surveys and any other feedback received in relation to complaints/suggestions, to continuously review the quality and suitability of the interpreting service provided.  Regular review meetings with the Contract Managers will be used to demonstrate (and agree where appropriate) the actions to be taken in order to improve the service accordingly.

Language Empire will supply to authorised users relevant literature (in suitable formats) to enable them to advise patients about the service, and how to comment on the quality and effectiveness of the interpretation services provided.

Language Empire will have mechanisms in place for patients whose first or preferred language is not English to provide feedback and comments on the service.