CQC Legal Challenge; the fight is on
Sent to our mailing list on 19th May 2020.
Yesterday was a very eventful day.
The CrowdJustice fund raising page went live at 17:30hrs and by 09:00hrs this morning, had already reached £8,130 from 94 pledges; a clear indication of the strength of feeling in the profession. The page to donate is here.
The profession needs your support to take this important case forward. The initial target was set at £10,000, and it is looking likely that will be reached this morning. But please don’t stop donating! This is intended to be a war chest to take this legal fight forward. As soon as the funds allow, I will instruct a Queen’s Counsel (QC) to advise on the likely outcome of any court action. JFH Law will then look to issue a ‘letter before action’ setting out the legal position.
We are now considering:
- A Judicial Review of the CQC’s guidance to dentists. The guidance on their website remains the same; “The Chief Dental Officer has set out what dental services MUST do during the outbreak”. No update clarifying this advice has been provided to the profession universally. Dentists need absolute clarity of what the consequences will be should they return to work.
- A class action/test case against the CQC for damages resulting from the improper closure of dental services across the UK. All dental practices that offer private treatments have suffered significant financial hardship, and potential loss of goodwill, as a result of their inability to offer services to patients in need. We will look at potential avenues for compensating them.
Thank you for your support so far. Together we can do this.
Following my request for clarification from their legal department last week, others have begun to ask pertinent questions of the CQC.
1. As discussed in JFH Law’s update yesterday, John Milne, Senior National Professional Advisor at the CQC, did an extraordinary volte face on the current published CQC guidelines in answer to questions posed by the management of MyDentist, as to when dentists will be able to return to work:
‘It will be dentists themselves that decide when they will return to work. Dental practice has not been included in the list of businesses that must close. Indeed, most practices have been open but not providing face to face care as part of the public health advice given by the CDO. The dental profession has supported this public health agenda at considerable cost, particularly for the private sector. The CDO this week announced that “nothing has changed” and this implies that the agenda of the public only attending with urgent need to reduce the risk of them acquiring Covid-19 is still in play. NHS contract holders are supported financially and will take their cue for returning to work from the NHS. For private providers the situation is more difficult, particularly when they feel their patients are unable to access appropriate urgent care.
Some private providers have taken the decision to offer services. Some also have asked CQC to “approve” or “endorse” their decisions. It is not CQCs remit to do this.’
The suggestion that the cessation of dental routine and face to face emergency treatments was as a result of dental practices choosing to support “the public health agenda” is extraordinary. The direction from the CQC was clear. ALL dental service providers were expected to follow the advice of the CDO.
2. Taylor Defence Services Ltd firmly grasped the mettle to reassure their own clients, releasing a letter to them, confirming that their own senior counsel in Scotland had confirmed our advice, that the CDO’s guidance is not binding upon private practitioners.
3. Lord John Lee of Trafford contacted me having been alerted to the problems by his own dentist. He is so concerned with the lack of dentistry in the UK that following our conversation he tabled the following question to the House of Lords:
“For the attention of HM Government; what plans they have to discuss with the CQC the steps that need to be taken to enable dental surgeries to safely reopen for emergency dental care during the Covid 19 epidemic”.
4. The newly formed British Association of Private Dental Practitioners suggested a “Vote of No Confidence in the Office of the Chief Dental Officer”; as a result of a poll of 1600 dentists. Albeit it has now been established that the post holds no legal authority over private dentists, this is certainly a clear insight into the strength of feeling in the profession.
Thank you all for your continued support.
Julia Furley, Barrister
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written which may affect the information and advice given therein.