IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Multilingualism in healthcare: Exploring the lived experience of maternity professionals

This research impact project explores the everyday experiences of multilingual NHS maternity professionals.

This project ran from January 2021 to July 2022. The project was funded by an Impact Grant from the Department for Culture, Communication and Media 2021-2022.


Discussions surrounding migration and health in the UK often focus on language as a barrier to care, failing to recognise the linguistic diversity of NHS staff.

This project aims to achieve a better understanding of how and when health workers use additional languages to English, the benefits of doing so and the potential for them to receive institutional recognition and support for this work.


This study recruited bilingual and multilingual NHS maternity staff, from around the UK, who use, or have used, languages other than English at work. 

They were invited to take part in online individual and focus group interviews and asked to reflect on linguistic strategies adopted when trying to communicate as effectively as possible with service users.


Preliminary findings reveal participant attention to linguistically personalised care and a perception that shared language(s) may enhance clarity, as well as improving patient understanding and sense of wellbeing. 

The study also suggests that a more explicit recognition of the communicative skills of multilingual staff could contribute to improved outcomes and experience within minority populations.