Interpreter in the health services in Norway

You have the right to receive information about your health, illness and treatment in a language you understand. As a patient with a limited knowledge of Norwegian, you are entitled to an interpreter in your preferred language.

Foreign women with interpreter
Foto: Johnér Bildbyrå AB

The healthcare services in Norway are responsible for ensuring good communication between healthcare professionals and patients who have a limited knowledge of Norwegian. It is the healthcare service that is responsible for booking a qualified interpreter.

It can sometimes be difficult to know whether you need an interpreter. Healthcare professionals are responsible for assessing whether you need an interpreter but you can also let them know if you think you will need one. You can also call the health service and ask them to arrange an interpreter in your language.

You may be entitled to an interpreter even if you speak Norwegian on a daily basis.

A screen or phone interpreter can sometimes be a good alternative to having an interpreter present in the room.

Who can act as an interpreter?

Interpreters must have a qualification in interpreting.

Children must not be used as interpreters. Other relatives or persons without any interpreting qualifications should also not be used in place of a qualified interpreter.

Your responsibilities as a patient

It is important that you tell the healthcare service exactly which language you prefer.

Once an interpreter has been booked for an appointment, it is important that you arrive precisely. If you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment, you should cancel it at least 24 hours in advance. If you do not, you will still have to pay for the consultation. It is particularly important to keep this in mind when an interpreter has been booked.

The interpreter's role and responsibilities

The interpreter has a duty of confidentiality and will not disclose to anyone else what is said during an interpreted conversation.

The interpreter must only interpret what is said, and must not give advice or add their own opinions. The interpreter must be neutral and not take sides with anyone.

As a patient, you will relate to your healthcare professional. All questions should therefore be aimed at the healthcare professional, and not at the interpreter.

Who pays for the interpreter?

It is free for patients of healthcare services to have an interpreter, but if you go to the dentist and have to pay for your dental treatment, you will also have to pay for an interpreter if you need one.

Complaints

If you do not get an interpreter for an appointment with the healthcare service, even if you think you need one, you can complain to the institution that is treating you. You can also complain to the Health and Social Services Ombudsmen ("Pasient- og brukerombudet").

If you are not satisfied with the quality of the interpreting or other similar circumstances, you can complain to the institution that is treating you.