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Restrictions on Polish doctor who cannot speak English properly

Published 28/10/2015

Restrictions have been placed on a doctor because of his poor command of English
Restrictions have been placed on a doctor because of his poor command of English

A Polish doctor has been ordered by medical watchdogs not to work unsupervised because he cannot speak English properly.

Dr Tomasz Fryzlewicz, 56, was sacked from two hospitals over his language skills and three times failed tests to ensure his English was up to scratch.

Today he became the first foreign doctor from the European Union to face restrictions on his practise following a hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester.

Although there has been no evidence of actual harm to patients, the doctor, who works in cardiology, needed additional supervision, assistance and time to ensure patients under his care were safe.

The hearing was told other medics found it difficult to understand what Dr Fryzlewicz was saying and hard to communicate back to him in English.

Today he was told he can continue to work - but only under a raft of conditions.

These included telling the General Medical Council (GMC) where he is working, to be directly supervised while he is working, and to pass his English test to the required standard.

The medic, who currently works at the Royal Stoke Hospital, first moved to Britain in 2006 from Krakow in Poland, working in several hospitals as a locum.

Dr Fryzlewicz had previously worked as a locum registrar at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow and the University College London Hospital before his contracts were terminated early.

Until last year, only doctors from outside the European Union could have their language skills tested.

But new rules were brought in which mean doctors can be forced to undergo tests if there are concerns about their English.

The change was prompted by the case of Daniel Ubani, a Nigerian doctor who flew to Britain from Germany, and injected a patient with a lethal dose of morphine on his first shift.

After a complaint was raised in July last year about his command of English, Dr Fryzlewicz sat three exams under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), to assess his speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

He took the language tests in October and December of last year, and again last February, each time failing to obtain the minimum score.

Despite that he was still in the process of being offered a posting at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford

He must now work only when supervised for the next 12 months when watchdogs will review his performance and the results of his English test.

At a second hearing today, another medic, Dr Alessandro Teppa, who now works in Italy, was suspended from working for nine months, so he can study English after twice failing the language skills test.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, which brought the cases against both doctors, said: "We are disappointed that the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (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.

"The vast majority of doctors, including those from Europe, are highly skilled and speak excellent English. 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.

"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.

"Since 2010 we have twice raised the level we require in the IELTS and we will keep this under review. But let us also be clear, the action we take does not absolve employers of their responsibilities.

"As these cases highlight they must carry out thorough pre-employment checks on any doctor they are planning to take on, and that should include checks both on their language skills, and on their ability to provide safe high quality care to their patients."

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