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Two EU doctors disciplined for inadequate English

Almost half of EU doctors seeking work in UK failed to prove English skills

Almost half of EU doctors seeking work in UK failed to prove English skills


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Two EU doctors disciplined for inadequate English” was written by James Meikle, for The Guardian on Wednesday 28th October 2015 19.28 UTC

Two EU doctors are the first to be disciplined under legal changes that demand medics practising in Britain speak satisfactory English.

Polish doctor Tomasz Fryzlewicz, who qualified in Poland and has held a licence to practise in the UK for the last nine years, failed to score the required marks in language tests three times and must now only work under direct supervision for the next year.

He had worked at a number of hospitals as a cardiologist, and is now at the Royal Stoke hospital. Contracts he had elsewhere ended early on two occasions. A hearing was told other medics found it difficult to understand what Fryzlewicz, 56, was saying and found it hard to communicate with him in English.

Allessandro Teppa, an Italian doctor from Brescia with 30 years’ experience had been working at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospital before he was temporarily suspended last year. He is now back in Italy after being suspended from working in Britain for at least another nine months.

The decisions announced on Wednesday were made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), which is part of the General Medical Council (GMC) but makes its decisions independently. The GMC says it has opened a number of cases into doctors with poor language skills.

The ability to demand proof of competence in English by medics from the EU applying for work in the UK came under new powers introduced last year. Regulators were also given the power to demand English tests of EU medics already in Britain if their apparent language difficulties prompted professional investigations.

The changes were a result of Guardian revelations about how an incompetent German doctor, Daniel Ubani, accidentally killed David Gray, 70, while on his first UK shift in 2008.

These prompted warnings from the GMC and Royal College of GPs (RCGP) that patients’ safety was at risk under the system then in place and that EU doctors should face the same checks as those from other parts of the world.

In August, the GMC, which registers doctors and licenses them to work, revealed that nearly half all EU doctors who sought work between the introduction of the new rules in June 2014 and early July this year had been turned away because they could not prove their English was good enough.

They were required to do this either by proving they studied medicine where the courses were predominantly in English; via professional references, or by taking the approved English language tests.

Fryzlewicz was told by the MPTS panel he could continue to work but only under conditions that included informing the GMC where he was working and being under direct supervision. He must also get the required 7.5 minimum overall score for listening, writing and speaking under the International English Language Testing System(IELTS) .

Fryzlewitz first moved to Britain in 2006 and worked as a locum at several hospitals. His contracts at the Princess Alexandra hospital in Harlow, Essex, and University College Hospital, London, were ended early.

After a complaint about his command of English last July, he failed to get the necessary language score three times. Despite that, he was still in the process of being offered a job at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.

The MPTS said it would review his performance and the results of any further English tests next year.

Teppa has twice failed to get the required English score. The MPTS panel found that his lacking of the necessary English was a threat to “safe and effective medical practice.”

The GMC said it was disappointed the disciplinary panel had not suspended Fryzlewicz as it had requested but was satisfied the conditions imposed on him would protect patients. The decision to suspend Teppa had been the right one, said GMC chief executive Niall Dickson.

‘The vast majority of doctors, including those from Europe, are highly skilled and speak excellent English”, he said. “But for too long this country tolerated a system that allowed some doctors to practise without adequate knowledge and skill in the English language to communicate effectively with their patients and colleagues.

‘The checks we can now carry out, together with the action we can take against doctors who are already practising in the UK, are making patients safer – as these cases demonstrate”, said Dickson. “Since June 2014 when the new powers came in we have refused to grant licences to 800 doctors from Europe who have not been able to provide evidence of their proficiency in English.”

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