28 / 01 / 2009
The London Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Ambulance Service Association (ASA).
In 2002, the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust introduced the 'Multi-lingual Emergency Phrasebook' to aid communication with people whose first language is not English. Following the success of the publication, a revised addition was produced in 2004. the revised edition features 36 languages including the addition of Bulgarian, Dari, Korean, Kurmanji and Mandarin.
It is nationally recognised as a powerful tool in overcoming the communication difficulties with members of the public from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds whose first language is not English. Ambulance crews feel better equipped to diagnose and treat patients efficiently and appropriately, rather than making assumptions based on body language and descriptive gestures from patients.
The challenge for ambulance staff working with diverse communities has always been to make sure there is effective, respectful two-way communication. This has often meant using empathy and cultural knowledge to work out the needs of patients or their families. The phrasebook aids this process and helps to ensure that accurate assessments can be made by staff.
Researchers identified the most commonly spoken languages spoken in England. Ambulance staff were consulted to determine the most common questions that are asked when attending to a patient. Language translation experts were consulted to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity during the translation process.
Ambulance staff have access to a resource that can aid two way communication with patients who cannot speak English. The initiative demonstrates the commitment of ambulance services to engaging with the communities they serve and supporting their staff.
An evaluation showed that 80 per cent of ambulance services surveyed described the phrasebook as a highly valued resource for their organisation. Other organisations such as the prison service are now using the phrasebook to aid communication.
Mohammed Jogi, National Programme Manager, The Ambulance Service Association. Telephone: 0207 928 9620
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