We are often asked by potential customers, and users of our services, how we assess the cost and impact of an interpreter not attending an assignment (for whatever reason).
Unfortunately, such occurrences (we call them “Did Not Attend” or DNA for short), however rare, go hand in hand with any work associated with travelling to and from various places of work. With face to face interpreting, even an unavoidable “no-show” will carry a direct cost, however there are also numerous, and less obvious indirect costs – for all parties concerned.
The cost to the non-English speaker
The primary purpose of face to face interpreting is to enable communication for non-English speakers in order for them to easily access front-line services, such as a doctor’s appointment. A patient may have been waiting to see a specialist for a long period of time and if the Interpreter does not attend for any reason, the patient may miss out on their appointment completely, which they will have to then reschedule.
On a more serious note, a DNA occurrence might mean that a patient’s illness may go undiagnosed.
To put this in perspective for a Police assignment, a victim of a crime may not be able to provide a witness statement, which could result in a criminal not being convicted. If you consider the cost of language services to the taxpayer, this would be one cost that simply couldn’t be quantified.
The cost to the customer
There will be a clinical cost to the NHS, for example, if a nuclear medicine appointment cannot go ahead there are huge costs involved.
The NHS also has national targets to hit, and missed appointments will contribute negatively to their results, showing the respective trust or hospital as under-performing. It is worth pointing out that other patients could be seen at this point, which adds to these ‘inefficiencies’.
A DNA for an assignment at a Police station would mean that a potentially dangerous suspect may have to be released. The Police only have 24 hours to interview suspects before being legally obliged to release detainees without charge in most instances, so this cost has a societal impact which again is not quantifiable.
The cost to the Interpreter
An Interpreter’s reputation is built on reliability, both in terms of their language proficiency as well as their record of fulfilling assignments. A DNA can damage an Interpreter’s reputation and should they require references in future, this could be restricted depending on the circumstances of their DNA.
Even before requiring a reference, the customer may request that the interpreter who did not attend their assignment is not used again for the same contract. Additionally, the service provider may choose stop working with the Interpreter. These instances can severely affect an Interpreter’s income.
The Interpreting Service Provider
The old adage is that a language service provider’s name is only as good as the quality of its linguists which, means more often than not, a DNA will damage a service provider’s reputation.
The service provider may also face financial penalties if these are pre-agreed with the customer and, depending on the severity of the DNA from the customer’s perspective, they may also lose a contract due to service level agreements and key performance indicators not being met.