For many people from ethnic minority backgrounds living in the UK, English is not their first language. When they require medical treatment, either in emergency or routine situations, they are frequently seen by medical staff who do not speak their mother tongue. Both patients and staff have the frustrating task of trying to explain medical complaints and symptoms and, in turn, convey treatment regimes between each other. 1 Doctors can often appear uncaring and brusque in their attempts to understand a patient’s problems. Patients can leave consultations feeling that they have not been adequately assessed and confused about their continuing medical care. Many hospitals and health authorities are now trying to provide interpreters, translators, Linkworkers or Health Advocates to bridge this language gap. 2 At the main hospital in East London, a Health Advocacy service was set up at the beginning of the decade. It was designed not just to provide a ‘translating service’, but for its advocates to feel able to span the cultural, as well as the language divide, between patients from their own ethnic group and medical staff.