Patients, their families and carers who do not speak English as a first language or who are Deaf have the right to free, confidential and professional interpreters when they use public health services.
Professional interpreters must be used in all patient care settings to promote effective communication, ensure quality and safety in patient care and to minimise potential adverse events.
The policy Interpreters - Standard Procedures for Working with Health Care Interpreters must be adhered to by all staff across all NSW health services. It states:
“It is NSW Government policy that professional health care interpreters be used to facilitate communication between people who are not fluent in English, including people who are Deaf, and the staff on the NSW public health system. The use of professional interpreters allows health professionals to fulfil their duty of care, including obtaining valid consent. The Policy Directive describes the roles and functions of the Health Care Interpreter Service, situations in which interpreters must be used, what to do if an interpreter is not available, and the responsibilities of health care providers when using interpreters.”
Use of non-professional interpreters such as family or friends is not just a breach of the Standard Procedures, but also a breach of the duty of care owed to the patient, and could result in legal action.
There are five Health Care Interpreter Services (HCIS) in NSW - three metropolitan and two rural. They provide 24 hour 7 days a week onsite and phone interpreting services in over 120 languages including Auslan for people who are Deaf.
Members of the public, including patients, their family/friends/carers, are not required to contact the NSW Health Care Interpreter Services directly to book an interpreter. The responsibility to book the interpreter lies with a health provider who is seeing a patient/client who requires an interpreter’s assistance. However, the links below will enable you to find out more about your local HCIS and its coverage.
Metropolitan Health Care Interpreter Services
Health Care Interpreter Service - Western Sydney Local Health District
Coverage: Western Sydney LHD, Northern Sydney LHD, Nepean Blue Mountains LHD, the Children’s Hospital Westmead and St Joseph’s Hospital.
Health Language Services - South Western Sydney Local Health District
Coverage: South Western Sydney LHD
Sydney Health Care Interpreter Service – Sydney Local Health District
Coverage: Sydney LHD, South Eastern Sydney LHD, St Vincent’s (Darlinghurst), Sydney Children’s Hospital (Randwick) and Justice Health and Forensic Medicine.
Rural and Regional Health Care Interpreter Services
Health Care Interpreter Services – Hunter New England Local Health District
Coverage: Hunter New England LHD, Central Coast LHD, Mid North Coast LHD, Northern LHD, Far West LHD and Western LHD
Health Care Interpreter Services – Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
Telephone: (02) 4223 8540 or 1800 247 272 (for Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW Local Health District)
Coverage: Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD, Murrumbidgee LHD and Southern NSW LHD
Please note: Only the Illawarra Shoalhaven HCIS may accept requests to book interpreters from family members/friends or carers and for particular appointment types only. Please contact the Illawarra Shoalhaven HCIS as above for more details.
Translation is the written transmission of messages from one language to another. The following translation services are available in NSW Health: