An app that offers surgical hope for non-English speaking patients

LNWH Charity has backed an innovative new app that could remove language barriers for some patients

A new App funded by LNWH Charity is set to open up a revolutionary surgical technique to non-English speaking patients throughout North West London and beyond.

‘Awake Translate’ is an app developed by the Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust which will allow non-English speaking patients the chance to undergo awake surgery, which involves patients being conscious throughout their surgical procedure.

Clinical Lead for Trauma, Nicholas Ferran, has performed numerous awake surgeries and believes they offer many benefits, including:

  • Faster recovery time
  • Less pain medications required postoperatively
  • Patients won’t experience common side effects of anaesthesia such as nausea, vomiting, and general fatigue
  • No need for patients to be fasted pre-op, which is especially important in elderly and diabetic patients

Non-English speaking patients are not currently candidates for awake surgery due to their inability to follow commands from the team or communicate any discomfort. It is estimated that this sub-group of non-English speaking patients represents 10-20% of the patient population seen in the department.

“We have often been frustrated that language created barriers to offering a cohort of patients the awake procedure, especially as there appeared to be solutions we could adapt. We needed it to be robust and foolproof as awake surgery relies on verbal commands,” Nicholas explained.

Alongside Trauma and Orthopaedics SpR’s Michael Rafferty and Kapil Sagund, Nicholas has worked with developers to create an app to support anaesthetists and surgeons to communicate with non - or limited - English speaking patients throughout their surgery. The app, which currently contains eight languages, will allow patients to inform the surgical team of the specific areas and levels of pain and the types of discomfort they are experiencing, as well as allowing the surgical team to relay instructions to patients.

Nicholas and his team have plans to develop the app further to contain more languages, plus a voice recognition feature for those patients who are illiterate.

“We believe this innovative technology will have a profound effect on surgery offered top non-English speaking patients and cannot thank LNWH Charity enough for allowing us to create this app.”

Nicholas Ferran, 
Clinical Lead for Trauma