The anaesthetist, who had worked at the Hospital for many years, claimed he had been bullied by two nurses at the Hospital in 2013 and 2014 and, as a consequence of his complaint to hospital management, he lost the opportunity to work on a particular surgery list conducted by another doctor. Prior to his complaint a significant portion of his work at the hospital was as anaesthetist to this surgeon. He claimed damages in excess of $2.5million. The defendant denied the existence of a contract or that the anaesthetist had been bullied.

The anaesthetist contended that his re-accreditation to the Hospital in April 2012 gave rise to a contract between the parties. It was alleged that the parties could be easily identified; offer and acceptance was represented by the application for reaccreditation and its grant; and mutual consideration was said to exist by the doctor’s agreement to abide by the By-laws and the concomitant obligations imposed on the Hospital by their terms.

In support of his argument the anaesthetist relied upon the Hospital By-Laws and various Codes of Conduct and policies implemented by the Hospital, which his accreditation with the Hospital required him to abide by.

The Hospital denied the existence of a contract and submitted that the arrangement between the parties was in the nature of a conditional licence granted by the Hospital to allow the doctor to enter the Hospital on certain conditions, including compliance with the By-laws. No obligation was created such that the Hospital was bound to allow the doctor to enter the Hospital and provide anaesthetic services.

The Court found that the reaccreditation agreement was an agreement in the nature of a conditional license granted by the Hospital to the anaesthetist, such that the anaesthetist was accredited to enter the Hospital and provide medical services within his area of expertise. The accreditation did not give rise to a contract and did not contractually oblige the Hospital to enforce the Code of Conduct and associated policies for the doctor’s benefit.

In relation to the Codes of Conduct and associated policies, the Court found the documents apply to employees. They do not apply to accredited health professionals present in the Hospital pursuant to accreditation. For persons other than employees, such documents may be seen as statements of best practice rather than contractual terms. Whilst compliance is expected, it is not contractually enforceable.

To read the full decision in Page v Healthscope Operations Pty Ltd [2016] NSWSC 1608, click here.