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Research reveals the impact of Language barriers in UK healthcare


Healthcare workers in the UK are losing as much as half a working day every week overcoming language barriers. So big is the issue, that people working in UK healthcare admitted that there has been a time during their career that communicating with a patient or colleague with English as a second language has prevented, or delayed them, from giving the best care they could.

A fifth of those surveyed said they have faced language barriers when communicating with colleagues and patients, as often as every day.

The findings have been revealed in a new report conducted with 1,000 healthcare workers from across the UK by Pocketalk, a digital translation service which partnered with healthcare providers during the pandemic to help overcome language challenges.

During a typical working week, it’s reported that as much as four and a half hours every week are spent by nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals managing communication breakdowns, born from language barriers.

The findings come as the UK government announced an extra £5.9bn investment into healthcare last year, which will include spend on digital technology over the next three years.

Joe Miller, general manager at Pocketalk, said: “The UK is made up of a vibrant mix of ethnic groups and addressing diversity in healthcare can literally save lives.  To best communicate, understand, and treat patients with the best care possible, it’s vital that patients and their families are understood.

“We commissioned this piece of research because we believe this issue needs support and it’s needed more than ever as our country looks to welcome thousands of Afghan refugees into the UK to rebuild their lives.

“More than a third of the healthcare professionals that we asked said that it is difficult to access effective and timely translation services and we want to change that. It’s great that technology is addressing these challenges and it’s encouraging to see the latest budget announcement include digital tech in healthcare.

“Not only can tech help doctors and nurses and other medical professionals do their job but, it also allows for vital relationship building, which is crucial within the healthcare sector.”

Pocketalk is a digital translation device which offers an immediate and highly accurate (97% effectiveness) translation solution which covers up to 82 languages – something that would be impossible to do manually.

Pocketalk uses WiFi, mobile data, or a personal hotspot to provide foreign language translations in real time. All users have to do is press and hold the button as they speak. When finished, they let go of the button and the device provides an immediate translation, helping staff to communicate with patients, families, and colleagues.

Joe continues: “Further findings in our research revealed that more than a third of healthcare workers agreed that language barriers make it more difficult to assess a patient’s needs and half said that being able to communicate effectively with a patient who speaks a different language improves patient-care relationships.

“After navigating a global pandemic and facing the most difficult time the healthcare sector has ever faced before, we are aiming to help our key workers by alleviating added pressure to what is already an incredibly tough occupation.

“We are empowered and passionate about helping break down these barriers and it is our mission to make a difference.”

If you are a healthcare provider interested in using Pocketalk, please email

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