£1,000-a-week spend on translators at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton

This is The West Country: Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

A LOBBY group has called on Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital to divert some of its near-£1,000 weekly spend on interpreters and translation services to invest in staff and equipment.

Musgrove bosses say the bill represents a tiny proportion of its annual budget and it has a duty of care to all patients.

The trust running the hospital paid out £39,157 ensuring non-English speaking patients could understand nurses, doctors and consultants in the ten months to the end of January.

The total bill for the financial year is likely to be slightly higher than the £45,047 paid out in 2012/13, which was an increase on £18,239 the previous year.

The figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, show the languages the service most frequently relies on are Polish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Russian and Mandarin.

Commenting on the Musgrove bill, TaxPayers’ Alliance political director Dia Chakravarty said: “The NHS really cannot afford to spend so much of taxpayers’ money on inter-preters, especially when times are hard.

“While hospitals will need to provide translators for visitors facing medical emergencies, they cannot be expected to provide day-to-day services in foreign languages.

“Hospitals must do more to cut these costs and instead focus resources on doctors, nurses and medical equip-ment.”

A Musgrove spokesman said: “We have a duty of care to make sure that all members of our community can understand information about the hospital’s services and that our patients, clinicians and nursing staff can communicate with each other effectively so that our patients receive the best possible care.

“We provide a range of interpretation and translation services which staff can access as and when they are needed.

"These services are provided by an external company, who were appointed through a formal procurement process.

“The annual cost of providing this service to our patients represents a small fraction, less than 0.02%, of our annual budget.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said NHS organisations need to ensure their communities can understand information about services and that patients and clinicians can communicate with each other to ensure patients get the best possible care.

She added: “However, we would encourage trusts to be efficient and save money where possible by working together and sharing resources.”

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