In 2006, their bill for interpretation services was £1.9 million. Last year their bill reached a record amount of £4.9 million. The GPs, hospitals and other healthcare services provided by the NHS in Scotland are receiving additional pressure because the foreign born population also increased in that same time period. In 2006, there were 230,000 foreign-born patients in the country and by 2014, it had already increased to 370,000.
The national total cost of translation services each day amounts to about £14,000, which includes providing British Sign Language services for their deaf patients. Based on a request through the Freedom of Information, it was revealed that the biggest share of the translation services are from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which spent £2.85million last year. Currently they still need to fill up the need for interpreters fluent in Vietnamese, Slovak, Romanian, Nepalese, Greek, Italian, Kurdish, Amharic/Tigrinia, Albanian and Arabic. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde pays £20 an hour for an interpreter.
There were also significant increases in language services at NHS Grampian and NHS Forth Valley. NHS Tayside’s spending on language services rose from £110,187 (2006) to £184,646 (2014). The spending of NHS Lothian was remarkable, showing £673,173 in the 2010-2011 period to £846,840 in between 2013 and 2014. There was also a big increase in NHS Borders. In 2011, they spent £37,797 and the figures jumped 55 percent to £59,312 in 2014. Only NHS Dumfries and Galloway did not show an increase in translation and interpreting spending, remaining consistent at £5,000 per annum.
Critics are saying that the increase in language services spending should not be blamed solely on the increase in foreign-born residents in the country. Eben Wilson, the director of Taxpayer Scotland, an Edinburgh-based advocacy group, said that the cost of non-clinical services should be tightly managed, reserving the language services to those who need immediate care while the front-line staff should try to understand the other non-English speaking patients instead of immediately calling for the services of a translator or an interpreter.
Translators have claimed that they charge double when their services are needed in the early morning hours and also said that at times they were called when the patient is already anesthetized, for which they still get paid their regular rate. They also revealed that they were paid travel expenses when they have to travel across Scotland and were also paid even if the patient did not turn up for their appointment.
An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokesperson said that they provide interpreting and translation services to all non-English speaking patients, including British Sign Language services to facilitate communication between patients and health workers during their appointments, which are all included in the language services expenditure tally.