Interpreting for the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic


Many of us find interpreting while wearing masks challenging. Lip reading is not possible anymore, and the sound is not of the same quality while wearing the mask. We need to remain professional, and we are not allowed to guess what the person had said. If you cannot hear, do not worry about asking the non-speaker or health professional to speak up. 

You do not need to wear a face-covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This can include the following: 

– To eat or drink if reasonably necessary

– In order to take medication

– Young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)

– If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

– Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability

– If you are travelling with or assisting someone who relies on lip-reading to communicate

– To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others. 

– If a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

So what do you need to have ready before the assignment? You need a face mask, hand gel, company lanyard, a pack of anti-bacterial wipes and spare change if you travel by car. If you are present during any procedure, you may be asked to use PPE and roll up your sleeves up to your elbows.

If you feel that you are being asked to participate in a potentially unsafe situation – stop – remove yourself from the environment and contact your agency urgently. 

After completing the assignment, upon your arrival at home, you should change into completely new clothing and immediately place worn clothes in the washing machine to kill any bacteria. A product called Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser Sensitive 1.5L can kill 99.9% bacteria, even below 20C. This can be added into your normal washing routine after adding your detergent. The average price of this product is £4.50, and you need two full caps of the product in one wash. 

Sometimes we can’t wash every single item of clothing we wore to our work (coats, hats). Dettol spray & wear instantly refreshes clothes and kills 99.9% of bacteria and works perfectly on hard-to-wash items. The average price for this item is around £2.99 for 250ml. 

It is important to wipe down any devices, such as phones and tablets, which were used in the hospital. Your handbag, pen and notebook should be disinfected immediately after you arrive at home. 

Medical interpreters are key workers that can come into close contact with many people throughout the day. The COVID-19 outbreak has been challenging for everyone across the globe. Not only are people cut off from each other, but they fear catching a new virus which we still have a lot to learn about. On a positive note, the UK has started their vaccination programme for all front-line health workers and those most vulnerable to the virus. On 8th December 2020, a UK grandmother, Margaret Keenan (age 91) became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme. NHS states on their website that the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is safe and effective, and it will give the person the best possible protection against coronavirus. The vaccine will be offered more widely, and at other locations, as soon as possible. As the infection rate in London continues to soar, London’s Nightingale Hospital has opened its door on 11th January 2021 for people to get their vaccination. 

We need to work together to beat this virus. Stay safe! 

Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2): Information about the new virus variant:

Information about the vaccination programme:

Guidance about working safely during COVID-19:

NHS website about Covid-19:

Covid testing in UK: