A Birmingham dentist is celebrating a landmark victory against the government after it failed to overturn a court ruling which protects the employment rights of dentists across the country.
The Department of Health lost an appeal yesterday against a judicial review won by Dr Eddie Crouch, which forced it to remove controversial legislation from its NHS Dental Contract.
The Hall Green orthodontist had fought against South Birmingham Primary Care Trust (PCT) in February over a clause in the NHS Dental Contract, which allowed bosses to terminate dental contracts without cause or notice.
The Department of Health, which is in charge of the PCT, mounted the appeal to have the decision overturned, saying that health bosses needed such a power.
But yesterday’s decision by Lord Dyson, supported by the Master of the Rolls sitting in the Court of Appeal, rejected this claim in a move that is set to benefit dentists nationwide.
The ruling means all dentists with Personal Dental Service contracts, which affects about 3,000 dental practices and specialisms such as orthodontics, will no longer contain the clause.
Dr Crouch said he was relieved the appeal had been rejected and the clause would not appear in dental services contracts.
He said: “Giving the PCT the ability to stop someone working for no reason was unreasonable. This is an important ruling for dentists because of the type of contract we have.”
Dr Crouch contested the contract offered to him before the new NHS dental contracts in April 2006 but signed it in dispute to ensure he could continue to provide NHS care to his patients.
The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Justice Collins’s ruling in February that the reasons by which a PCT can end a contract are set out in legislation and that a PCT must abide by legitimate termination reasons.
“I just hope that all the other dentists who have helped me get this result regard it as a victory as much as I do,” Dr Crouch added.
“People should stand up to the Department of Health if they feel a practice is unfair. Just because it is a government department, it does not mean it is always right.”
Dr Crouch relied on generous donations from fellow dentists nationwide to help him foot the £70,000 bill for the initial judicial review.
The British Dental Association supported Dr Crouch’s case by sending a barrister to represent the profession’s view in both the High Court and Court of Appeal hearings, but did not offer any financial support.
Dr Crouch said his barrister had given his services for free in recognition of the importance of the case.
The 49-year-old said: “Without the support of my colleagues, many of whom I have never met, and their encouragement this would never have been possible.
“I can never repay that, and I hope they share this victory with me, which is the victory over draconian actions of a government against health care providers.”