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Soc Sci Med. 2009 Jul;69(2):210-4. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.04.022. Epub 2009 Jun 15.

Arranging and negotiating the use of informal interpreters in general practice consultations: experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in the west of Ireland.

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National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.


This paper focuses on the work involved for service users in arranging and negotiating the use of informal interpreters from their social networks for general practice consultations. The data are drawn from a participatory learning and action research study, carried out in the west of Ireland. Qualitative data were gathered using a peer researcher model from a 'hard to reach' community of Serbo-Croat and Russian refugees and asylum seekers (n=26). The findings elucidate that there is a tension for service users between the experienced benefits of having a trusted friend/family member present to act as their interpreter and the burden of work and responsibility to manage the language barrier. Participants emphasize that, for them, the use of informal interpreters can be inadequate and problematic and can leave them worried, frustrated and with experiences of error and misdiagnosis. Overall, they state a clear preference for the use of professional, trained interpreters in general practice consultations which is currently unavailable to them in routine Irish general practice consultations.

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