The NHS spend on translation and interpretation services is £60,000 a day, according to a report.
Research by think tank 2020Health showed NHS trusts spent £23.3m on written translation and interpreters last year, an increase of 17 per cent since 2007.
The organisation, which obtained the figures through Freedom of Information requests, claimed money could be saved by creating a central pool of pre-translated materials which all hospitals and GP surgeries could access.
Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020Health, said: “Our research shows that the NHS spends an incredible £60,000 every single day on translation services. That is over £20m a year.
“The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material, rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents.
“The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity, and incredible when taken in the context of the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ of saving £20bn across the health service.
“Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs and our report sets out a number of recommendations that would do exactly that without altering the level of care given.”
As well as a central library of information, the think-tank recommended translating materials into simple English rather than other languages.
It also suggested providing more written translations through free web-based services, such as Google Translate.
Ms Manning went on: “The NHS has been told by its own patient feedback that documents in simple English - instead of medical jargon - would be acceptable to most people currently using the translation services.
“It wouldn’t take much effort to drastically cut the £23m of taxpayers’ money that is spent each year on bureaucratic and often duplicated translation fees, and free the money up for treating patients.”
The report revealed that trusts across Birmingham spent £4.9 million between 2008-09 and 2010-11 on translation services, the highest spend outside London.
Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £3.7m over the same period.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spent £2.4m, while Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was the biggest spender in London, with £2 million.
London trusts comprised 15 per cent of the trusts surveyed, but were responsible for 31 per cent of the total spend, the research showed.
According to the report, the cost of translating documents has fallen but there has been a rise in the cost of interpretation services within the NHS.
Not all trusts could provide details of how much such services cost them, the think-tank said.
The report also questions whether catering to non-native English speakers is helpful or “perpetuates a system in which they are ostracised from the majority of the English-speaking public”, 2020Health said.