An Italian doctor has been suspended from practising medicine in the UK after failing English language tests.Dr Alessandro Teppa is one of the first EU doctors to face disciplinary action over language skills following a change in the law in 2014.
His suspension will last at least nine months, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has ruled.
Another medic – a Polish doctor who failed language tests three times – has been allowed to work under supervision.
Dr Teppa qualified in 1998 in Italy and was granted a licence to practise in the UK in 2012.
He failed an English assessment two years later and was put under an interim suspension order that year.
In a document, the tribunal panel said the standard of his English was currently “insufficient to support safe and effective medical practice in this country”.
He told the panel he had since been taking English language lessons at his home in Italy.
He must return for a further hearing in the next nine months.
The medical regulator for the UK – the General Medical Council (GMC) – agreed with the decision.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, added: “This doctor should not be able to practise in the UK again until he can demonstrate he is able to communicate effectively.”
A separate case involved a second doctor, Dr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, who qualified in Poland and has held a licence to practise in the UK for the last nine years.
He failed English language assessments in October 2014, December 2014 and again in February 2015.
The panel ruled he must only work under direct supervision for the next year and must pass an English language assessment within 12 months.
But the chief executive of the GMC said there should have been tougher sanctions.
Mr Dickson added: “We are disappointed that the MPTS panel did not suspend Dr Fryzlewicz as we had requested but we are satisfied that the panel has placed sufficient conditions on his clinical practice to make sure that patients will be protected.”
Dr Fryzlewicz was previously employed as a heart specialist at various hospitals, including the Royal Stoke University Hospital, the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex and the Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield.
Some colleagues who worked with Dr Fryzlewicz said they weren’t always sure he understood what they said.
Dr Simon Woldman, clinical director of specialised cardiology at Barts NHS Trust told the tribunal: “When I spoke to Dr Fryzlewicz, I was never really sure that he had understood the instructions he was being given…
“When Dr Fryzlewicz spoke, you had to concentrate quite hard to understand what he was saying.”
Other colleagues and patients wrote to the panel in support of the doctor’s command of English.
New powers allowing the medical regulator to check doctors’ English language skills came into force in June 2014.
Previously only doctors from outside Europe could have their language skills tested by the General Medical Council (GMC).
The risk of a doctor not being fluent in English was highlighted by a lethal mistake made by Dr Daniel Ubani, a German doctor doing an out-of-hours shift who gave a lethal dose of a painkiller to patient David Gray in 2008.
As a German citizen the doctor was able to register to work in the UK without passing a language test.