NUBSLI challenges NHS England report on interpreter fees

By NUBSLI | Published on 16 October 2018

A recent report by NHS England on the cost of booking BSL/English interpreters was deemed by NUBSLI to be misleading as to the actual fees that interpreters charge. As a result, NUBSLI has contacted NHS England regarding the matter, a copy of which is below:


We are the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) and represent BSL/English interpreters and Deaf translators working in the UK.

We have read the report published by NHS England in August and are writing to express our grave concerns about the inaccuracies within it as well as, what we consider to be, the damaging statements that have been made.

In Section 7 ‘Note on meeting the needs of people who are d/Deaf or have hearing loss’ it is stated that “Approximate costs for British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation (face-to-face) are £40-60 per hour with a three hour minimum call out fee plus travel expenses”.

We would suggest that this figure is misleading as, were interpreters’ services to be booked directly, they are unlikely to cost this amount. Rather these costs are charged by third parties who have been awarded contracts as a result of framework agreements, resulting in grossly inflated costs for interpreting services and, subsequently, giving a wholly negative and inaccurate impression of how BSL/English interpreters charge for their professional services, as well as the true costs involved.

Indeed, we would direct you to NUBSLI’s Fee Guidance, where you will see that not only do BSL/English interpreters not charge by the hour, as your report suggests but also that, were NHS departments to book interpreters directly, they would likely save a considerable amount of money. To that end, we would strongly encourage NHS Trusts and their departments to do exactly that, avoid booking professional BSL/English interpreters via these third parties and to engage services directly.

In addition, we would like to bring to your attention the recently published Unite the Union report, written by NUBSLI –  National Framework Agreements: A Dossier of Disgrace which highlights the problems with the current procurement method being used. This is not only damaging to the sustainability of the profession, but the case studies also show the failings of contracts and what this means for the Deaf community. In short, the Accessible Information Standard is not being met and poor provision has led to serious mistakes being made in patient care.

Finally, we would request that NHS England retract the statement about interpretation costs from the report and issue a correction as detailed above.