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Information for HSC Staff and Practitioners

Why Provide Interpreting Support?

Interpreting support is needed for all Patients/Clients who do not have sufficient proficiency in English language. This ranges from those with no English at all, to those with intermediate level English that may well be satisfactory in social situations but not enough for health and social care situations.

Communication barriers prolong appointments, with a strong potential for misdiagnosis, misunderstandings and non-consent to examination, treatment or care. There are cases of persons who were not provided with interpreters returning to see Practitioners on numerous occasions and going through various treatments until their condition was addressed.

Providing an Interpreter:

  • improves access to services
  • minimizes the risk of misdiagnosis, misunderstanding and non-consent
  • raises awareness in relation to religious/cultural needs and different health belief systems
  • reduces the the likelihood of repeat appointments, prolonged appointments, or unnecessary admission to hospital
  • complies with legislative requirements – Race Relations Order (1997), Northern Ireland Act (1998)

How to Book an Interpreter

The BSO Interpreting Service can only accept bookings directly from HSC Staff and Practitioners. Requests for Interpreters must be submitted via the online HSC Interpreting Service Booking System*

The Interpreting Service Booking System can be located via any of the HSC Trust Intranet sites, Primary Care Intranet, and Dental and Optometry Portals.

HSC Staff who do not already have a system account will need to self-register. See How to Self-register Userguide below for further detail.

Out of Hours Interpreter Requests*

HSC staff must call the Belfast HSC Trust Call Management Centre on 028 9615 8200 if an Interpreter is required during out of hours periods. Please do not submit out of hours requests via the online booking system – system bookings are only accessed/processed during normal working hours (8am to 5pm Monday to Friday – excludes bank/public holidays).


Please ensure to cancel your booking if the appointment is no longer going ahead. HSC Staff should cancel their bookings via the online system. To cancel within 24 hours of the appointment start time, please contact the interpreting service on:  or 028 9536 3777 (8am to 5pm Monday to Friday).

Barcodes – Verifying the end time of the appointment

Interpreters will request to scan the Department barcode at the end of the session. Please ensure the barcode is available for the Interpreter to scan. Scanning the barcode confirms the Interpreter attended, and the appointment end time for payment purposes. The barcode can be found within your online system user account under “User Management – Get Barcodes”.

If the appointment is taking place at a Client’s home you will need to select “at clients home” at step 3 of the booking process AND also select where YOU are based from the appointment venue drop down list – this is the barcode you should bring to the appointment for the Interpreter to scan. This also applies to bookings taking place “at other location”. See appointment venues – barcodes userguide below for further guidance.

It is the responsibility of the Department to manage and monitor how the Interpreter can access the barcode. Suggestions include printing the barcode and keeping it on the back of private consultation room doors, holding it behind reception areas, keeping it in Staff ID passes or logging into the system and scanning from the computer screen.

Non-Availability of BSO Interpreters

In the event that BSO does not have an available Interpreter, the BSO Interpreting Service Team will contact the HSCNI Booker by phone/email to:

  1. Outline non-availability of an Interpreter
  2. Suggest potential alternative dates/times when an Interpreter may be available – please note Interpreters are engaged on a self-employed basis so we cannot guarantee availability until they accept a booking
  3. Provide guidance on alternative ways to access language support including:
  • Accessing a BSO Interpreter via video call– contact BSO for more info
  • Telephone Interpreting via Big Word
  • Face to Face Interpreting via Flex Language Services (back-up Provider) – please note that requesting Departments will be charged directly for use of this service (important to note that HSC Providers do not pay for interpreting provided by BSO and the Big Word, so costs in rare circumstances should be acceptable)

Current Language Challenges

The BSO Interpreting Service is currently experiencing difficulties with provision of Interpreters for a small number of minority languages including Somali, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Tigrinya, Tetum, Bengali, and Kurdish-Sorani. Whilst BSO closely monitors language demand and makes every effort to increase capacity, our ability to provide is entirely dependent on the existence and availability of qualified Interpreters in NI.

BSO-registered Interpreters are engaged by BSO on a sessional / self-employed basis and have no normal hours of work. They are under no obligation to accept bookings, and have no obligation to travel.

It is not uncommon to see multiple Interpreters in the same clinic, at the same time, for the same priority language. This significantly limits availability of Interpreters for other HSC Services. Where possible, HSC Staff are strongly encouraged to schedule appointments so that 1 Interpreter can cover multiple bookings.

Locked System Accounts

Please email to request your account is unlocked (this is a separate systems team in BSO – the Interpreting Service cannot unlock accounts).

System Password Resets (accounts not locked)

Please enter your username (email address) on the login page and click on Forgotten password? to reset your password.

HSC Trust Staff Training – Working Well with Interpreters

Go to LearnHSCNI | Sign inCatalogue – Working Well with Interpreters – to book your place / register your interest:

BSO Guidelines on working with Interpreters for HSC Staff and Practitioners 2021