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Why translation is a useful tool in the modern world of medicine

Why translation is a useful tool in the modern world of medicine [Photo: iStock/alvarez]
in Healthcare

The healthcare sector is simultaneously one of the most important and costly in the world. In the UK alone, the NHS sees billions in public money spent every year to make sure everyone who needs it has access to the very best care around.

However, the complexity of the healthcare sector and the language used therein makes it one of the most problematic to deal with for those who are not natives of the country in which they are receiving, or even giving, care. Here, we take a look at why it is vitally important that anyone who has dealings with the NHS has access to materials that are well translated and medically sound.


In the medical sector, perhaps more than most others, it is vital that staff are well trained and constantly updated on new changes in protocol and practice. This is often carried out through eLearning and training that staff can carry out in their own time while at work. In this regard, it is vital that translation is employed to make sure staff have the right training in the right language, ensuring that they know all they need to know and are not missing out on valuable information.

This is particularly vital in the modern world of medicine, where foreign workers are an important asset to healthcare sectors. For example, statistics show that 11 per cent of all staff and 26 per cent of all doctors in the NHS are not British nationals. In terms of the EU alone Full Fact reports that as many as 55,000 people in the NHS are from EU nations outside the UK.

Translation services for eLearning medical materials is important when we take these figures into account. While it is true that the majority of people working in the NHS will speak good English, many will still learn better in their own language than they would in English. Giving staff the chance to learn in a language they feel more comfortable with, if they want to, can help improve education and overall training in the NHS.

Of course, it’s vital that any translation in this regard is carried out by an expert in the field. Medical terminology, accurate translation and the correct meaning of all training is carried over into target languages in order to ensure that people are receiving the right training at all times.

Pharmaceutical and clinical treatment

It’s not only staff that are coming from overseas and having dealings with the NHS. It’s vitally important that those who are being treated are also able to have access to treatment in their own language. Whether this is through having access to a translator in their native language for meetings with doctors, clinical reports being provided in their own language or pharmaceutical labelling being in the right language, there are a number of areas where it is vital that patients can understand what is happening.

Translation of clinical reports, doctors’ decisions and labelling on medicines and other pharmaceutical labels is important so that doctors know that people are taking prescriptions as instructed, and that they fully understand any diagnoses and recommended treatments from doctors to ensure they get the best quality of care at all times.

Of course, there are few sectors in the world where it is as important in the medical sector that translation is accurate and correct, because one wrong meaning can give someone the wrong impression of their conditions or diagnosis. This is why an expert is always needed when it comes to translating such materials.

In the UK at the moment, we can see that there are approximately 138,000 residents who speak no English, which highlights the importance of making sure that people have access to healthcare in a language they can understand. The issue is shown to be even more important when we consider that as many as 7.7 per cent of the population don’t speak English as their first language, showing how vital it is that medical care is available in a range of languages.

When it comes to the translating of any materials for the healthcare sector, it’s vital that special care and the right translator are always employed. Medical terminology is almost a language in itself. It can be hard to interpret in one language, never mind translating into another. Health services and companies need to always make sure that they are using an expert with medical knowledge to ensure that any translated materials are using the correct terminology and interpreting for patients accurately.

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