Health Care Interpreter Service

Health Care Interpreter Service (HCIS)

Use of family or friends as Interpreters

Use of Relatives/Friends and Bilingual Staff to Interpret

NSW Health policy is to use professional interpreters.

The use of non-professional interpreters such as relatives, friends, children, or bilingual staff is not only a breach of the official Standard Procedures, but also a breach of the duty of care owed to the patient/client, and could result in legal action.

Relatives have an emotional involvement, their language ability is untested, and they are not skilled in medical terminology. The use of relatives to interpret is also breaching confidentiality for the patient/client, and there is no guarantee of impartiality or professional conduct.

Bilingual staff are encouraged to deliver their service directly in their other language, if fluent, without using an interpreter, but the use of bilingual staff to interpret is inappropriate. Although they are not involved emotionally, their language ability is untested, and they may not possess the necessary skills in medical terminology, or understanding of professional interpreting techniques.

Bilingual staff need to be aware of their legal position - basically, if interpreting is not in your job description, think carefully before you do it, and make sure that every attempt has been made to obtain a professional interpreter. If anything goes wrong, you could find yourself in court trying to explain why you considered it necessary to act outside of your job description. Leaving your normal duties to perform interpreting services may also cause difficulties in your workplace.