Ambulance Crews Get Multilingual Assistance

Tuesday, 17 August, 2010

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust is arming its frontline staff with a phrase book to help them communicate with patients who do not speak English in a medical emergency.

The Multilingual Emergency Phrasebook contains 21 basic clinical questions in 41 languages and will assist ambulance crews to communicate effectively with patients and carers in any language, particularly in areas of the region where there are high density ethnic minority populations.

The aid, produced by the Department of Health and used widely within the NHS, has been adopted by the Trust at a negligible cost as part of a programme to improve patient experience by providing equal and fair access to all service users regardless of speech and language barriers.

Karl Portz, Equality and Diversity lead at the Trust said: "Yorkshire is a very diverse region where many different languages are spoken which means that people requiring emergency medical assistance from us may not always be able to communicate in English.

"We are committed to providing a patient responsive and equal service for all of our patients and this phrasebook will help us to reduce health inequalities by ensuring people, whose first language isn't English, have the same options available to them as the next person."

Yorkshire Ambulance Service also uses a language translation service to handle 999 calls from people requiring emergency medical assistance but who can't speak English. During the last three months the Trust has translated 999 calls into 26 different languages illustrating the diversity of the region and the benefit this phrasebook will have for patients.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service Paramedic Gemma Cook said: "Being able to effectively communicate with someone who can't speak English in a medical emergency is vital.

"The phrasebook includes some really basic questions which we need to ask in order to properly assess a patient. For example asking if they are in pain or did they lose consciousness. It's also really useful for us to be able to ask if we can physically examine them or explain to them what actions we need to carry out.

Not only does this help ease the frustration experienced by these patients, who may already be anxious and distressed, but allows us to provide the most appropriate clinical care for their needs."

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