Judge slams NHS contract as Crouch awaits High Court judgement

Birmingham orthodontist Eddie Crouch is hoping for a High Court judgment in his favour following yesterday’s hearing on whether he can challenge his NHS contract.

The judge is expected to give a formal judgment this week but gave Mr Crouch hope when he described the rules and regulations dentists have to negotiate as ‘rubbish’.

Lawyers for Dr Crouch, a founder member of pressure group ChallengeDoH, argued that South Birmingham Primary Care Trust (PCT) had breached NHS regulations by suggesting it could terminate the contract ‘at any time and without cause’.

The PCT denied that it had acted unlawfully, but Mr Justice Collins indicated the orthodontist had won when he told Dr Crouch’s legal team after a day-long hearing: ‘I am with you on the termination point.’

During the hearing, the judge was scathing about NHS regulations for dentists.

He said: ‘It is like going through a marsh, trying to leap from tussock to tussock.

‘I do pity those poor dentists who have to struggle with this kind of rubbish.’

The judge still has to make up his mind on whether Dr Crouch has won a second, wider-ranging legal challenge.

It concerns the question as to whether the PCT unlawfully failed to consult the public adequately in order to assess local orthodontic needs before introducing the new personal dental services agreements (PDSAs) in April 2006 to improve the service.

Nicholas Stewart QC, appearing for Dr Crouch, argued that the trust had not complied with its duty under section 11 of the 2001 Health and Social Care Act. He told the judge: ‘The assessment is just not good enough.’

The PCT strongly denied the allegations.

Dr Crouch has spent two years fighting the case which has cost £30,000-£40,000 in legal fees, with dentists across Britain pledging their financial support.

If he is successful it could lead to a major overhaul of dental services across England and Wales – but if he loses, he risks bankruptcy.

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