Interpreter services in NSW

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.​​

​​​Working with interpreters

NSW Health Care Interpreting Services provide access to professional interpreting services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, onsite and by telephone in over 120 languages, including Auslan.

In any healthcare situation where communication is essential, health practitioners must engage professional health care interpreters for patients, families and carers who are not fluent in spoken English or who are deaf. The policy Interpreters - Standard Procedures for Working with Health Care Interpreters must be adhered to by all staff across NSW Health.

The Policy Directive describes when and how NSW Health staff must engage and work with health care interpreters. It includes what to do in an emergency or if a health care interpreter is not available. Working with health care interpreters allows health professionals to fulfil their duty of care and ensures that the quality of communication is the best it can be when a language other than English is involved.

Health practitioners are responsible for assessing a patient’s need for an interpreter and arranging an interpreter to assist. Members of the public cannot book NSW health care interpreters directly. If you or a family member need an interpreter, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450. There are five Health Care Interpreter Services (HCIS) in NSW. Health practitioners should contact these services first for any interpreting needs:

Some HCISs also have an emergency priority line that is only available for targeted or critical facilities such as Emergency Departments, Birth Units and Intensive Care Units. If you work for one of these units, please enquire with your local HCIS about their emergency hotline or using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) as a back-up service.

Health Care Interpreter Services do not provide interpreters for doctors in their private practices. TIS provides a Doctors Priority Line, which is a free 24/7 telephone interpreting service for services covered by Medicare and provided to non-English speakers who are Australian citizens or permanent residents. Doctors must register with TIS in advance to use this service. For further information, please call TIS Language Policy Liaison Team on 1300 575 847 or visit their website.

Working with translators

Translation is the process of transferring written words or text from one language into another. Translating is a different process to interpreting; translators and interpreters are trained and certified in different ways. Not all health care interpreters are qualified to perform translations and vice versa.

If a health practitioner requires written translation of documents for a patient’s care, they should contact their local HCIS for assistance. Only professional translators should provide translations of health material.

The following translation services are available in NSW Health:

Multilingual health information

Multilingual health information can be of assistance when working with patients, carers and communities who do not speak English as a first language.

All translated health information produced by NSW Health organisations or NGOs funded by the Ministry of Health should be included on the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service website.

Current as at: Wednesday 17 January 2024