Patient waits 20 hours in A&E due to lack of interpreter

A hospital boss has apologised after a vulnerable patient was kept waiting 20 hours because there was no access to an interpreter.

A Portuguese-speaking patient had to wait 20 hours
A Portuguese-speaking patient had to wait 20 hours

The patient, who spoke Portuguese, had to wait almost a full day at City Hospital in Birmingham, as the normal interpreter service couldn't be provided.

Toby Lewis, chief executive of the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has vowed to never let a similar incident happen again.

The patient went into A&E at the weekend. Mr Lewis said interpreters would normally contacted over the phone but that wasn't possible in this case as the patient required a mental health assessment.

But the top boss made it clear the length of time the patient was made to wait was unacceptable.

He said on Twitter: "I apologise to our ED staff. A patient spent 20 hours in our care awaiting an interpreter. The patient is unharmed. Will NEVER happen again.

Mr Lewis added in a statement: “We are very sorry that one of our patients waited 20 hours for a Portuguese interpreter over the weekend.

“Our patient was unharmed and was kept in a place of safety until we were able to provide a translator.

"The delay was caused because neither ourselves nor the mental health team could provide our normal telephone interpreter service, as the patient needed a mental health assessment and this demands a face-to-face interpreter to safeguard the patient’s interest.

“We are urgently looking into this matter to agree measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The trust has failed to meet the national target for having A&E patients seen within four hours at its two hospitals, Sandwell General and City Hospital, over the last 18 months.

Bosses are targeting reaching the required 95 per cent by the end of 2017/18.

Thousands have been kept waiting in A&E, with the average number of patients seen within the NHS target time languishing at 87 per cent.

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