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.

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.

The NHS Patient Survey Programme is looking to offer translated online surveys for all the surveys in the programme in the future. As of August 2020, two surveys in the programme will offer an online survey:

  • The 2020 Adult Inpatient Survey and 2021 Maternity Survey will signpost respondents to the online survey where they can take part in the nine most common non-English languages spoken in England.
  • Urgent and Emergency Care, Community Mental Health and Children and Young People’s surveys do not currently offer this service.

However, there are a number of steps you can take to increase responses from people with a limited understanding of English language for these surveys:

  • 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 postal mailings. The survey handbook for the survey will confirm which mailings this leaflet should be included in. 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.
  • 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.