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Fifteen-minute consultation: How to use an interpreter in a medical consultation
  1. Sofia Sarfraz1,
  2. Ian D Wacogne2
  1. 1 General Paediatrics, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 General Paediatrics, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ian D Wacogne, General Paediatrics, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK; ian.wacogne{at}


The use of interpreters is essential in our multicultural society. The families and patients we treat come from differing backgrounds, cultures and spoken language. Many are not proficient in, or may even entirely lack, the ability to communicate effectively in English. As health professionals, we must meet their needs and manage the risks to provision of good quality care that language barriers may introduce. Use of an interpreter or interpreting service is an important skill, which is rarely formally taught in undergraduate or postgraduate curricula. Here, we present some of the pitfalls of using an interpreter, and offer some tips on getting the best out of their use.

  • medical education
  • multidisciplinary team-care

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  • Contributors The paper was conceived from a number of conversations between SS and IDW. SS wrote the first draft and IDW and SS then went on to make significant modifications.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. There was a typographical error in one of the author’s initials in the Contributor statement. SF should be SS and this has now been corrected.