Interpreting and translation

Interpreters provide a service for patients, people using care and support services, carers, social workers 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 or social care services can impact on health outcomes, increase the frequency of missed appointments and reduce the effectiveness of consultations and patient/residents experience.

What is interpreting and translating?

Interpreting and translating are not the same thing. Interpreting is spoken, translation is written. Some language professionals do both. Interpreters charge by the hour, translators charge by the word.

There are a range of organisations that provide interpreting and translation services in Newcastle.  This section gives information on some of these.

Bilingual Services and Interpreted Advice

If your first language isn’t English, you may sometimes need an interpreter or translator to help you understand what is being discussed. This is particularly important if you are having a personal or carer’s needs assessment or receiving health or medical information and advice.  Services offer:

  • face-to-face Interpreters
  • document translation of any kind
  • telephone and voice Interpreting
  • British Sign Language

There are several ways in which you can access interpretation services depending on when and where you need them.

Locally selected services

Newcastle City Council uses the services of Language Empire and several others. Language Empire  is a national organisation that provides a wide-range of services for companies, organisations, charities, businesses and service providers.

North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) use the services of Language Line.

You can access NEAS using a British Sign Language interpreter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and every day of the year. Available via a computer, mobile phone or tablet. The interpreter calls an NHS 111/999 adviser and relays your conversation with them. The adviser will ask you questions to assess you, then give you the healthcare advice you need, direct you straightaway to the local service that can help you best or dispatch an ambulance or other resource. You can also access this service online at

For more information or to request an interpreter to call 111 or 999 visit:

GPs you can access interpreting services through your GP,  nurse practitioner, other health service and local organisations.

SignLive provide interpreter services for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that regulate health and social care

Relay UK provides help for deaf, speech-impaired and hearing people talk to each other over the phone using the relay service. You can use the Relay UK app with your mobile, tablet or PC. Or just use Relay UK on your Minicom or Uniphone.   You pay nothing to use the service itself, just your provider’s usual charges.

Finding your own interpreter or translator service

Interpreting is not a protected profession. This means that agencies can hire people to work as interpreters who are not trained to a set standard. Their language level may not have been checked. If you are hiring an interpreter, request that they are appropriately qualified. Look for interpreters who have level 6 qualifications. For example DPSI Health, DPSI law or DPI policing.

If you want to look for an interpreter yourself instead of going through an agency, you can search the National Register for Public Service Interpreters. You can search by region and by language. All the interpreters on the register are experienced and qualified to level 6. To search the register you need to create an account but it is free to do so.

There will be an online Register of Public Service Translators soon, where you can find translators.

More advice on how to work with interpreters is available on the English Unlocked website.

The North East British Sign Language website has a list of the professional sign language interpreters working in the North East.

SignHealth is a Deaf-led charity with expertise in issues related to access and health.

Becoming Visible is a Deaf-led charity with interpreting services, training packages and media and campaigning work.

Translated health information

Patients should be able to request a translation of their summary care record into their preferred language and format (including easy read, Braille and other accessible formats) at no cost to themselves over and above the standard cost of accessing their patient record. See the Accessible Information Standard (SCCI1605) for further information.

The NHS 111 provides online language translation.

The HAREF network will identify areas where it is difficult to access the information you need.

Information NOW uses Recite ME so that you can translate an article, information, organisation or event into your language of choice. There are also a number of translations into an audio file including Hindi, Chinese and most European languages.

The CNTW Patient Information Centre offers a range of health related information in many languages including:

  • medical conditions
  • procedures and treatments
  • details about self help and support groups
  • information about complaints procedures
  • copies of leaflets in many languages

NHS online has health information in a range of languages other than English.

Doctors of the World provide translated information about vaccines and other health care needs in 20 translated languages.

Alternatively, you can ask a friend or relative to make the call on your behalf. Wait until an interpreter is on the line before you explain why you are calling.

Disabled people who are d/Deaf, blind or deafblind

The Equality Act 2010 places a legal duty on all service providers to take steps or make “reasonable adjustments” in order to avoid putting a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage when compared to a person who is not disabled.

NHS England, Department of Health and Social Care and the Accessible Information Standard

From 1 August 2016 onwards, all organisations that provide NHS care and/or publicly-funded adult social care are legally required to follow the Accessible Information Standard. The Standard sets out a specific, consistent approach to identifying, recording, flagging, sharing and meeting the information and communication support needs of patients, service users, carers and parents with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.

Last updated: September 20, 2022