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BMA announces judicial review and more strike action over contract imposition

The BMA has announced it is launching a judicial review over what is calls the ‘embarrassing’ revelation that the Government failed to carry out an equality impact assessment before imposing a new contract on junior doctors in England.

It has also announced three more 48-hour strikes in March and April, during which junior doctors will only provide emergency care.

Junior doctor leaders said that the failure to undertake an equality impact assessment was ’yet another example of the incompetence which the Government has demonstrated throughout its handling of this dispute’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt this month announced that he was imposing a contract on junior doctors after talks broke down over the issue of evening and weekend pay, with the Government refusing to step back from its decision to remove ‘unsociable hours’ pay premiums from Saturdays and weekday evenings.

The BMA had said it was looking into the legality of the imposition in an email to junior doctors over the weekend, adding that further strike action was ’inevitable’.

It has announced the dates of the new action. They are:

  • 48-hour emergency care only from 8am, Wednesday 9 March to 8am, Friday 11 March
  • 48-hour emergency care only from 8am, Wednesday 6 April to 8am, Friday 8 April
  • 48-hour emergency care only from 8am, Tuesday 26 April to 8am, Thursday 28 April.

It also revealed that the Government had ‘failed to provide evidence’ that it had had any due regard for equality issues when imposing the contract, as required under the Equality Act 2010.

Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: ’In recent weeks I have heard from thousands of junior doctors across the country, and the resounding message is that they cannot and will not accept what the Government is trying to do.

’It now appears that in trying to push through these changes the Government failed to give proper consideration to the impact this contract could have on junior doctors. This is yet another example of the incompetence which the Government has demonstrated throughout its handling of this dispute.’

He added: ’The Government can avert this action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have, rather than simply ignoring them.

’If it pushes ahead with plans to impose a contract that junior doctors have resoundingly rejected we will be left with no option but to take this action. The Government must put patients before politics, get back around the table and find a negotiated solution to this dispute.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations – over a contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe. The new contract will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise, and will bring down the maximum number of hours doctors can work. 

‘We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings.’

What the contract includes

The junior doctor contract imposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt includes:

  • An increase in basic pay of 13.5%;
  • Redefining the definition of ‘plain time’ to include Saturday from 7am to 5pm;
  • Paying a premium of 30% for Saturday ‘plain time’ working, if the doctor works one in four weekends;
  • Reduce the definition of ‘safe hours’ from 91 to 72 hours a week;
  • Doctors will not work more than four consecutive nights – down from seven currently;
  • The maximum number of consecutive ‘long days’ will be reduced from seven to five;
  • A new ‘Guardian’ role will be introduced, with the authority to impose fines for breaches to agreed working hours, which will be invested in educational resources and facilities for trainees.

Read more here

Readers' comments (30)

  • if you must impose a dangerous, divisive and dastardly contract, make sure it is equally damaging to everyone first!

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  • ’The Government can avert this action by re-entering talks with the BMA'
    I do not believe that BMA said this.

    You do not want to speak to or come near this character. He is not fit for his office, and He should go with the decision he made.

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  • 4:32pm
    "and addressing the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have, rather than simply ignoring them." - more than just needing to go through the motions of negotiating.

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  • I think Dr Malawana should replace GPC, including the chair who was awarded a honor (presumably for abandoning his members and agreeing to the government as I see no great service to provided by the GPC or the chair).

    At least he has the guts to take DoH on rather then turning over and ask when they would like GPs to work 7 days/week for nothing

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  • I think it might be a while before Dr Malawana gets a knighthood.

    Perhaps OBE if lucky?

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  • when, oh when will the GPC have the balls to do whats right for the people it purports to represent?

    I am fully behind the JDs but think they should have announced all-out strikes, including emergency work. Its the only way forward to force the hand of the privatisation brigade that is the government.

    Problem is, the GPC folk are all 'seasoned' players - closer to retirement then the folk whose lives they are ruining by not showing the guts to stand up for us.

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  • ’The Government can avert this action by re-entering talks with the BMA'
    I do not believe that BMA said this.

    You- the BMA do not want to speak to or come near this character- Mr Hunt. Mr Hunt is not fit for his office, and He should go with the decision he made. If Mr Hunt makes a u turn on his decision - he should be sacked with tail between his legs for his incompetence and failure.

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  • "In recent weeks I have heard from thousands of junior doctors across the country, and the resounding message is that they cannot and will not accept what the Government is trying to do."

    Well said and delivered Dr Malawana and the junior doctors that you have engaged with since the enforcement plans of Mr Hunt. Continuing strike action with emergency care and not accepting enforcement whatever the consequences. It is NOT SAFE OR FAIR.

    Many of us have children that are medical students or Junior Doctors and I want them to have a better deal than the ridiculous hours we went through especially in the climate of faster paced care and denigration by the media and a minority of the public.

    We have accepted far too much work and expectation as a profession. As a result it has come to this breaking point. Enough is enough. NO MORE.

    Whether the public support you or not we all know the "free at the point of use NHS" is coming to an end and is not sustainable at such a value for money cost at the detriment of the workers health.

    Good luck JDs. We as GPs are here to support you as a profession and ALSO AS YOUR GPs we are here to support your physical and mental health in whichever way is needed FOR YOU

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  • Surely David Dalton as a CEO had a vested interest in getting the best deal for trusts, which may explain why so many other CEO's distanced themselves after the imposition. What needs to be publically declared is how much the NHS costs to run when everything is "free". There needs to be public consultation on what is affordable and what is not. I had to send an anxious father away without Meningitis B because his child was born two months before the campaign started. At £75 an injection he will struggle to afford it privately so I advised him to challenge his MP on the decisions of his government.

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  • i don't think the public gives a **** - we are merely service providers and they are paying (tax) customers.

    the government will stand firm as if the NHS goes under it will be one less financial drain for the state.

    i don't see a way out but in saying that i think the juniors are doing the right thing and wish them the best of luck.

    what will happen is if there is one fatal event as a consequence we will all be demonized. i really think the government will hope that support wears out and the protest runs out of steam. they will do the bare minimum to keep GP partners and NHS consultants on board and wheel out their medical supporters to say how bad the rest of us are. I expect them to go after junior doctors, locums and the rest of the NHS staff. I think the plan is to cut T&Cs across the board to prop up the NHS for a few years and make things so bad that we beg for privatization to improve our T&Cs. The best bit is the public will still vote conservative.

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