Better Care

Quality care? You're speaking our language!

Birmingham Community Healthcare’s health visitors pride themselves on offering high quality advice and support to every family in the city with a child under the age of five.

In fact, across the country, health visiting is the only public service of any kind that has routine contact with EVERY child at this crucial stage of their development. From the age of five up to late teens, the same applies to school nurses.

In a city as diverse as Birmingham, these essential services must be as flexible as possible in order to meet the diverse needs of every community. And, often, that means going the extra mile to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of every child.

Fauzia Iqbal, a nursery nurse working in Saltley health visiting team, speaks seven languages – or different dialects of languages - originating in parts of Asia and the Middle East that have seen significant migration to the UK.

HV clinic at Aston HC

As well as English, Fauzia is able to use her language skills to converse in Urdu, Hindi, Pushto, Punjabi, Mirpuri and Hindko – invaluable for families needing help and guidance to care for their child and access the range of support available.

“It’s quite a mixture across Birmingham,” says, Fauzia, who was born in Peshawar, Northern Parkistan, spent her formative years in the Punjab and moved to the UK in 1997 to marry a UK citizen whose parents had immigrated from the Indian sub-continent decades earlier.

“As the official language of Pakistan, Urdu is the most common spoken minority language in Birmingham.

“After that, you’ve got Mirpuri, Hindi and Punjabi and there are a lot of common words across that group of languages.

“Being able to converse in a number of languages and dialects is like having a key to unlock families’ concerns, win their trust and make sure they understand what they have to do to get the support their children require.”

Jane Powell, head of the Birmingham health visiting service, said: “Like Fauzia, a lot of our staff use their language skills in their role to support families.

“This is a very valuable resource for the Trust because continuity of provision, and the building of a rapport and trust with a professional, is so important to families and much more efficient in service delivery than having to bring in additional interpreters.”


Imrana Tabasam is just one of many hundreds of parents who have benefited from having important information and advice offered in their first language.

After coming to the UK in 2006, she first met Fauzia after her son Areesh, now eight, was born and again after her four-year-old daughter Ayesha arrived.

“My first language is Urdu, and when I first came to the UK in 2006, it was really hard because I couldn’t understand anything.

“I can’t forget the support Fauzia has been able to offer me. You can feel very isolated when you can’t understand what is being said or explain your feelings, especially as a new mother.

Health visiting interpretation
Imrana Tabasham and 4-yr-old daughter Ayesha with nursery nurse Fauzia Iqbal.
“I had such huge appreciation for that practical and emotional support and I feel much more confident than I did then. In Mirpur, I was a primary school teacher, and, now my English is much better, I hope one day I might resume a career in education – that’ s my dream.”

Sohail Ahmadzai and his family have permanent resident status after he fled conflict in Afghanistan and travelled overland through 11 countries before successfully claiming asylum in the UK.

Once he had been granted the right to remain indefinitely, he made arrangements for his wife, Massoma, and children to join him.

Speaking with Fauzia’s interpretation, Sohail, who works in the construction industry, explained: “I couldn’t speak any English at all when I came. I had an aunt who had already come to England and she was able to help me register with a doctor. But it was very difficult.

HV interpretation
Sohail Ahmadzai with baby Suryah, 5-yr-old Hayat and 4-yr-old Fozia.

“Since we’ve been here, we have had three more children and so we’ve seen Fauzia a lot! Having a professional like her who can speak our language, Pushto, has been a big help, especially to understand what support and advice we can get to make sure the children are healthy and developing as they should be.”

And it doesn’t take much imagination to work out the inspiration behind five-year-old Fozia’s name…