Collecting data from non-English speaking populations

The patients who respond to your survey should be representative of all of the people who use the trust, so it is paramount that groups with limited understanding of English are not excluded. The questionnaire has been written in plain language to make it as easy to understand as possible. The questions have been tested with people whose first language is not English.

Translated questionnaires are not used within the NHS Patient Survey Programme. It is not possible to identify non-English-speaking patients, or their specific language, from patient records before questionnaires are sent out because language spoken is not usually included on patient administrative systems. Therefore, the first contact with participants will have to be in English.

There are a number of steps you can take to increase responses from people with a limited understanding of English language:

  • It is good practice to offer help or interpretation services to those who might require them. You can do this by subscribing to a specialist interpreting service, most of which offer telephone interpretation on a pay-as-you-go basis. Please contact the Survey Coordination Centre for further advice if you wish to do this.
  • You should include a multi-language leaflet in your first and third mailings. Trusts can use the leaflet provided by the Survey Coordination Centre and insert their appropriate helpline number. The leaflet gives directions in the 20 most common non-English languages spoken in England and also in EasyRead (routed to a separate number run by Mencap to help those with learning disabilities).
  • Many households include at least one competent English speaker who can help the person to fill in a questionnaire. In practice, this is often the most efficient way of gathering data from non-English-speakers, although it is not ideal as there is no control over the way in which a patient’s family or friends translate questions or interpret their responses and it does not allow the person to answer the questions directly.