Interpreting and Translation Services

Primary Care Commissioners i.e. ICBs are responsible for providing Interpreting and Translation Services in Primary Care

Guidance for Commissioners: Interpreting and Translation Services in Primary Care

Interpreters provide a service for patients, carers and clinicians to help them understand each other when they do not speak the same language. Not being able to communicate well with health professionals can impact on health outcomes, increase the frequency of missed appointments, the effectiveness of consultations and patient experience.

Staff working in primary care provider services should be aware of how to book interpreters across all languages, including BSL, and book them when required.

Details of how to contact and book interpreting and/or translating services should have been provided by your ICB. If you do not have his information, please contact your ICB primary care commissioning team.

It is the independent contractor’s responsibility to arrange interpretation on behalf of patients when required.

Telephone interpreting is the preferred method for appointments of 45 minutes or less, except in specific cases (see face to face interpreting below).

Face to face interpretation is available for when the appointment will last more than 45 minutes, or involves patients with mental health issues, people with a learning disability, children, or when discussing potentially distressing news. In these cases face-to-face sessions should be booked in advance of the appointment.

Document translation and alternative formats

Much health-related patient information is already available in a range of foreign languages via the NHS Choices website Navigate to the relevant web page then click the ‘Translate’ button (top right) and select the required language from the drop-down menu. The page content automatically changes to the foreign language selected.

Documents can be converted into alternative formats like ‘easy read’, Braille and audio file if requested by a patient or service user.


Language Line are commissioned by BSW to provide interpreting and translating services and Silent Sounds are commissioned to provide pre-booked F2F British Sign Language (BSL) assistance for deaf patients.  BSW ICB have kindly given permission for us to share their signposting for access to services.


Dorset use Capita Translation and Interpreting – All practices should have received a unique PIN code – contact the ICB primary care team if not known.


NHS Hampshire have continued with the legacy arrangements from NHSE for foreign language interpreting and translation services. It will depend upon your “place” within the ICB as to which services providers are available as there are a number of them. Your practice should have a unique eight digit access code; contact your ICB primary care team for full or further details at

Health Information in Other Languages

There are a number of leaflets in various languages on the NHS Choices website which can be found here:

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have thousands of publications available for GP Surgery’s, some of these are available in many different languages:  Search Publications – Health Publications

Public Health England (PHE) also have posters/leaflets which have been translated in up to 11 different languages: Campaign Resource Centre ( website, offer screening leaflets in a variety of languages:  NHS population screening: access and order leaflets – GOV.UK (

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