The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has finally started to take action against medical personnel who do not have sufficient English language skills it considers necessary to practice medicine in the UK. The tribunal panel took disciplinary action for the first time over language skills following a change in the law in June 2014 which allowed the medical regulator, the General Medical Council, to check the English language skills of medics.
Dr Alessandro Teppa from Italy became one of the first EU doctors to face suspension after the panel ruled that his English was currently "insufficient to support safe and effective medical practice in this country." His suspension will last at least nine months, the panel said.
Dr Teppa, who qualified as a medic in 1998 in Italy was granted a licence to practise in the UK in 2012. However, he failed an English assessment two years later and was placed under an interim suspension order the same year.
Dr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, a doctor from Poland, who failed the English language test three times, however has been allowed to work but under supervision. He qualified in Poland and has held a licence to practise in the UK for the last nine years.
The Polish medic failed his language assessments in October 2014, December 2014 and February 2015. He is required to pass an English language assessment within 12 months.
Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the GMC said that Dr Teppa should not be allowed to practise in the UK again "until he can demonstrate he is able to communicate effectively." He expressed disappointment over the decision not to suspend Dr Fryzlewicz as well but said "we are satisfied that the panel has placed sufficient conditions on his clinical practice to make sure that patients are protected."
Before the change in law, there was no such requirement for a European national to show proficiency in English before being able to register to work in the UK as a doctor. Previously only doctors from outside Europe could have their language tested by the GMC.
The language skills of foreign doctors, especially those from Europe became an issue after Dr Daniel Ubani, a German doctor gave a lethal dose of painkiller to a patient David Gray in 2008 while he was doing out-of-hours shift.