PCT to axe GP funding for translators

A PCT in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of England, where over 100 languages are spoken, is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to withdraw funding for interpreters and translators in GP practices.

GPs won a temporary reprieve after Brent PCT in north-west London gave them 12 working days’ notice that the cut, worth £150,000 a year, would be imposed last month.

Cambridgeshire PCT has withdrawn support for face-to-face interpreters but backtracked on a similar threat to telephone and signing services.

But Brent PCT is planning to enforce the spending cut in April, leaving GPs unable to provide care for non-English-speaking patients.

A spokesman for Brent PCT said: ‘This is a discretionary service and it is the GPs’ responsibility to fund it.’

Brent LMC member Dr Gillian Braunold said that in her practice, where one consultation in 10 is interpreted, costs totalled £21,000 in nine months.

Seventy-four practices in Brent will lose funding but it will be retained in the five PCT-run practices. Thirty-five practices in the PCT area regularly use face-to-face interpretation.

Brent PCT took expert advice on the GP contract that ‘supports our view that it’s up to the GPs to provide the service,’ the PCT spokesman said.

Londonwide LMC secretary for North West London Dr Fay Wilson said that there is no legal responsibility to provide interpreting services but doctors have an obligation under ‘Good Medical Practice’ to make the best arrangements that they can to accommodate patients.

She said that the global sum contained no additional element to reflect the costs or length of an interpreted consultation.

Dr Braunold said: ‘It is the PCT’s job to make sure that GPs can deliver an adequate service to their patients.’

North London GP Dr David Jones, who practises on the Broadwater Farm estate and uses an interpreter in consultations, said: ‘This encourages doctors to do things that are unsafe and ethically wrong such as using children or practising medicine without an interpreter, which is essentially veterinary medicine.’

‘Good Medical Practice’ stipulates that ‘To communicate effectively you must: make sure, wherever practical, that arrangements are made to meet patients’ language and communication needs.’

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