Non English Speaking Patients Policy

Our Doctors and staff have a professional obligation to ensure they understand our patients and that the patients understand any verbal instructions or written information.

Patients who do not speak or read English or who are more proficient in another language, or who have special communication needs are offered the choice of using the assistance of a language service to communicate with the Doctor or clinical team members. (Refer also to Section 7 - 3rd Party Observing or Clinically involved in the Consultation)

We are also aware that alternative modes of communication may be used by our patients with a disability and we endeavour to inform ourselves of how to access and use these services or technology to achieve effective communication with these patients.

A contact list of translator and interpreter services and services for patients with a disability is maintained, updated regularly and readily available to all staff. For example, the National Relay Service (NRS) for patients that are deaf or the translation and Interpreter service (TIS) Doctors Priority Line (1300 131 450) for patients from a not English-Speaking background.


Once you have determined that the patient may have special communication needs ask the patient consent to use assistance.

Check the patient’s medical record to see what if any services have been used before.

The patient may consider that a family member or friend could interpret at the consultation. A member of the patient’s family may not be a suitable translator especially for sensitive clinical situations or where serious decisions have to be made. The use of children as interpreters is not encouraged.An appropriate staff member can act as interpreter if the patient consents. Some of our staff members are bilingual, but not all are accredited interpreters and should not be used as such.Qualified medical interpreters are our preferred option and their use should be encouraged especially for sensitive clinical situations.

Note this on the medical records the patient’s nominated interpreter or any professional services that have been used and arrange these prior to the consultation.

A list of translator and interpreter services and other communication services used by this company is available.

Each doctor is registered with the interpreter service and allocated a code number.Registrations are renewed annually to ensure quick access when an interpreter is required. Other clinical staff should access the service via the treating doctor.

If TIS National is the chosen option book an interpreter by ringing the Doctor Priority Line Tel: 1300 131 450 (free service) or booking on line or by fax. This 24-hour service is available via telephone at the time of consultation, or if appropriate advance notice is given (usually 48 hours), the interpreter can be on site during a consultation (subject to availability) or at the patient’s home.If an interpreter is attending the home it is important to ensure the appointment starts on time.

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