A PENSIONER has clashed with health bosses over the tens of thousands spent on translators in the NHS for the benefit of foreigners who do not speak or write English.

NHS Worcestershire spent £24,000 in 2010/11 on written and verbal translations for foreign patients of which £14,000 was spent on helping patients from EU countries and £10,000 on people from non-EU countries.

The figures were released at a meeting of NHS Worcestershire when health chiefs were grilled by 77-year-old Percival Owen, of Hookbank Park, Hanley Castle, near Upton-upon-Severn.

He said he received £165 a week after tax for his pension and did not see why the NHS was spending so much on translation when his pension only rose by the equivalent of 75p a week extra a year.

Mr Owen asked board members why more volunteers with language skills were not used to translate English rather than paid translators.

He said: “Can the board consider advertising for volunteers for translation services? The increase in my pension has been, on average, 75p a week.”

Mr Owen said translation services were ad hoc but Simon Hairsnape, managing director of NHS Worcestershire, said they were “less ad hoc than they used to be”.

He said entitlement to translation services was set down by the Government.

He said: “It’s our job to make sure our providers have appropriate translations services to meet the needs of our residents and if that means supporting volunteer networks for our providers then we will do so. It’s an issue for providers themselves to make sure they have the appropriate measures in place to meet the appropriate needs of their patients.”

The NHS can use in-house translation services, specialist translation companies or translations could be provided on a volunteer basis by members of staff who understand the relevant language.

The most common languages which required translation were Punjabi (non-EU countries) and Polish (EU countries).

However, figures supplied to your Worcester News after the meeting show that spending on translation is falling. NHS Worcestershire spent £28,163 on translation costs in 2009/10.

Mr Owen said after the meeting: “In other countries there’s no monetary allowance for this. I think we’re too soft in this country.

“The answer from the board seemed to be ‘c’est la vie’. No wonder we’re going bust.”