Appeal for bi-lingual volunteers to help vulnerable Nottingham patients

Appeal for bi-lingual volunteers to help vulnerable Nottingham patients

By PMBlackburn  |  Posted: July 04, 2015

Comments (0)Language lovers are being urged to volunteer to help give people a voice in the city’s hospitals.A voluntary translation scheme has been set up at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospitals – and has already helped more than 1,000 patients.But the scheme, which started last September, is currently only catering for Polish speakers who have come to Nottingham and Renata Towlson, who set it up to ensure the best care can be given to patients who cannot speak English, wants to expand it to ten more languages.

Mrs Towlson, who came to Nottingham from Poland more than 20 years ago and has worked for NUH in the contracts and procurement department for 17 years, said: “There is a lot of support needed for people who have a very limited knowledge of language and those who can’t speak at all.


“The voluntary interpreting team can improve communications between doctors and patients, and potentially assist in saving and improving lives by avoiding common mistakes from misinterpretation between languages and cultures.”

The scheme runs alongside a paid for translation service at the hospitals, but Mrs Towlson, who lives in Bulwell, said it is needed as the NHS simply cannot afford the amount of translation patients need.

Currently there are around eleven staff in the hospital who volunteer to help whenever they are needed but mother-of-one Mrs Towlson said she hoped members of the public would now come forward to help.

She said: “It is a privilege to be a channel of communication between the clinician and the patient. It’s extremely rewarding. You can put people’s minds at rest and they can express themselves. I feel it’s quite a unique way to get into the fabric of our society you really start to gel and understand where people are coming from.”

After having the idea last year, Renata has been able to make a difference after the trust moved her to a new job where she is in charge of the hospitals’ contract with an external provider for translating services and developing voluntary services and she took on a recently launched course at the International School of Linguists which trains interpreters for working in the public sector.

She is also being sponsored to complete the course by The Big Word – the company who provide freelance translation services to the hospital.

Mrs Towlson said: ” I work full time, and I’m a busy mother and wife who hadn’t studied in 25 years, so I was nervous about starting a new qualification. However, ISL courses are all flexible and designed to be completed at a pace and time which suits the student. My new qualification has given me the ideal time, resources and learning at home support to help train our volunteers.”

Robert Mynett, general manager of ISL said: “The course is designed for practising interpreters who want to increase their work opportunities and diversify their career. Our unique approach to training means the Level 4 Certificate can be carried out as a vocational qualification so linguists have the flexibility to earn as they learn, perfect for a full time working mother like Renata.”

And Matthew Lowe, director of UK sales at The Big Word, said: “We are committed to supporting and engaging with our linguists at a community level, equipping them with the tools and skills they need to deliver high quality interpretation and translation work. We’ve partnered with the ISL for many years and it’s been fantastic to be able to sponsor Renata to help her achieve her Level 4 Certificate in Community Interpreting. We’ve also worked with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust for a number of years and look forward to supporting this fantastic voluntary interpreting team in the future.”

If you can volunteer to speak Polish, Urdu, Hungarian, Romanian, Punjabi, Arabic, Farsi, Czech, Cantonese, Slovak or Turkish you can get in touch with Mrs Towlson at or on 07812268800.

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