BSL interpreters are turning down work for agency that won NHS contracts

Posted on December 1, 2016

We have been told that members of NUBSLI (the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters) are turning down NHS work that is offered through an agency called LanguageLine Solutions.< NUBSLI say that LanguageLine:

  • Calls deaf people “hearing impaired” and describes BSL as “a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language”. (
  • Has won NHS contracts in Sheffield, London and the Midlands by bidding for the work at cheaper rates.
  • Is also cutting BSL/English interpreters’ wages by a third and making booking times shorter.
NUBSLI explains why its members will no longer be working for LanguageLine:

“It is impossible to provide a high quality and safe interpreting service if you are constantly checking what time it is. Deaf patients often need information to be repeated after they leave an appointment to make sure everything has been understood, or need support in accessing a pharmacy or another department. Appointments aren’t always over when you leave the consulting room. That extra level of care and support from interpreters will disappear if they are being pushed to get to the next appointment. This isn’t about money for interpreters. This is about deaf people’s long term access to health care.”

Nicky Evans, Branch Secretary, said:
We currently have 400 members of NUBSLI. We are boycotting specific contracts and have informed LanguageLine of this. The impact is that LL won’t be able to fulfil its contracts which were taken with unsustainable terms and rates.
Our concern is that interpreting is headed down the same route as home carers are experiencing now – where appointments are kept to a bare minimum, not meeting need and workers are pressured by time constraints. We are a long way off this yet, but this is clearly the direction of travel.
NUBSLI contacted the NHS/council involved and made it clear that we aren’t boycotting their services, just LanguageLine. We have ensured they know that interpreters are still available and willing to work for them and understand how to book us directly – we have explained how they can do this by checking the NRCPD register.
NUBSLI have also started a petition, which can be seen here:
For more information about this campaign go to NUBSLIs website:

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