New language project to improve communication with patients

Academics from the University of Wolverhampton have joined forces with partners from the NHS West Midlands Workforce Deanery and universities and healthcare services in Spain and Germany for the TELL-ME project.

The initiative will provide self-study material for English, Spanish and German which uses vocabulary specifically aimed at medics.

The two-year project was developed in response to a European Union priority to increase people’s mobility around Europe, and the European Parliament is also discussing ways to enhance cross-border healthcare. With all the benefits of this mobility, it is important to maintain high quality medical treatment and ensure a high standard of doctor-patient communication.

Professor Ruslan Mitkov, Director of the Research Institute of Information and Language Processing (RIILP) at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “A breakdown in patient-medic communication can lead to aggravated health problems and increased healthcare costs, so it is critically important to minimise language barriers wherever possible.

“By focusing on three of the most spoken languages in Europe our project will help not only English, German and Spanish native speakers working in their home countries, but also medical professionals from countries such as Poland, Sweden or Bulgaria who wish to work in another EU country. In addition, it can have an influence outside the EU as citizens improving their English or Spanish skills could work in North and South America and Oceania, and non-EU patients visiting the EU are likely to be able to use one of these languages.”

Dr Elizabeth Hughes, Regional Postgraduate Dean for the West Midlands, said: “This is an extremely important project. It comes at a time when increasing importance is being placed on proficiency in communication skills in doctors whose first language is not English.”

Funding for the project has come from the Leonardo da Vinci Multilateral Projects for Development of Innovation, which is part of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.

The University of Wolverhampton is co-ordinating the project with partners from NHS West Midlands Workforce Deanery; Universidad de Málaga, Spain; Universität des Saarlandes, Germany; Hospital Pascual, Spain and Universitätsmedizin Mannheim, Germany.

The package involves a range of products including work-related language exercises, self-assessment tools and an interactive dictionary of key vocabulary and concepts. These will be tested out on trainees by the medical partners and disseminated to key national medical policy makers.

The languages targeted by the project - English, Spanish and German - are among the five most spoken languages in Europe.

ENDS

For more information please contact Vickie Warren in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736

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