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Junior doctors lose High Court legal challenge against health secretary

Junior doctors have lost a legal challenge against the Government's unilateral junior doctor contract imposition.

The judicial review brought by junior doctor group Justice for Health saw a judge ruling in favour of the Government on all three counts, leaving the path clear for the rollout of the new contract.

The group had sought to challenge the transparency and rationality of the imposition, as well as health secretary Jeremy Hunt's power to impose a contract unilaterally when it is NHS Trusts which employ doctors.

But the High Court based this on Mr Hunt's claim he was not imposing the contract, but rather working with NHS employers to implement it.

Addressing Mr Hunt, today's High Court ruling said: 'It is noted that the press has again today referred to the contract potentially being “imposed” by you. As you know, references to “imposition” have been deployed to assert “wrongly” that you are not aware of your legal powers.

'To avoid further complaints of this sort, we suggest that it is best when addressing this issue to spell out that the new contract will be introduced by you working together with NHS employers.'

Justice for Health, which includes GP registrar Dr Francesca Silman, raised more than £150,000 through online crowdfunding in order to bring its case.

The group said in a statement: 'Mr Hunt’s last minute legal acrobatics have saved him from losing the case but bring no comfort to the thousands affected by his actions in the last year.

'He did not previously clarify his position when faced with thousands of cancelled operations, a devastated workforce or a health service in chaos, but instead, only when his actions faced High Court scrutiny.'

The Department of Health welcomed the 'clear decision by the judge that the secretary of state acted entirely lawfully'.

A spokesperson said: 'We must now move on from this dispute to the crucial job making sure that patients now get the same high standards of urgent and emergency care every day of the week, which involves more than the junior doctors contract.

'We urge the BMA to remove all threat of industrial action so we can work constructively with junior doctors to address their wider concerns and best recognise their vital importance to the NHS.

It comes as BMA’s Junior Doctor Committee recently called off a series of monthly industrial action, after concerns from doctors and patients about patient safety during the planned five day walkouts.

Readers' comments (25)

  • Thanks to Bruvver Bunting for explaining that this is really just the Tories fault and we dont need to engage our collective brains any further than agreeing with Dianne Abbott's diagnosis - God help us

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  • what a pathetic whitewash and utter disgrace.
    but it does confirm he is 'working with the trusts to implement the contract and not impose it'
    in other words(weasel disingenuous deliberately misleading lawyer's words that is)...it is STILL in trusts's gift to start the contract or not..JH is 'not imposing '(though I doubt not the usual covert secretive immoral nhs bullying will continue via financial targets on trusts to try to impose it..nhs under the current appallingly incompetent inept and allegedly corrupt maladministration and the worst SOS of all time)...it is illegal for an employer to impose a contract without consent.
    JDRs should now negotiate hard with trusts and make it VERY clear that any that try to illegally impose a new contract will NOT get enough staff--they will go to other trusts/Scotland wales or in fact ANYWHERE..and will also be challenged legally or strike action taken in trusts that try.
    this judgement by 5 toady QC's is a disgrace against natural justice employement law and is grossly immoral after the sos's repeated statements fortunately for him behind parliament's legal privilege he would impose the contract--the primary cause of the strike.

    to quote a colleague..if the BMA fails to continue action..cancel membership and LEAVE England..this country does not deserve you and tell the whole disgusting NHSE/DOH parasites to *uck off and find staff themselves or get off their behinds and do some real work as opposed to being parasites.

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  • I love this judgement. What does it say? That SoS #unt doesn't have any legal right to impose anything (he said so himself). Employers and Employees can go ahead and design an NHS that works, and completely ignore SoS. Leave him ranting and frothing at the mouth in a corner!

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  • So, it is not an imposition, but local employers are free to nagotiate as they want?
    What happened to the principles of Whitley?
    What is the BMA doing to maintain collective negotiation?
    Or, indeed, is it for juniors, with full individual support of BMA or MPU, to negotiate individual contracts to their liking, since, if the employer's do not agree, they will be without juniors on 2nd February, and the fault will lie with individual Hospital's board chairs, for failing to agree contracts with the intended junior doctors.
    They will need strong defence from BMA/Unite against the inevitable GMC and Deanery pressures, but Deans will have an obligation, under GMC guidance, to ensure that juniors contracts are agreed without adversity for the juniors, so Deans could be reported to the GMC if they fail to support juniors in their individual negotiations.
    I am glad I am not a Dean or Health Board member!

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  • Well said Dr. Vinci Ho & Anonymous GP partner @ 12.26pm. I agree with all you said

    Shame on you PULSE with your misleading & inaccurate headline & report ! Who's side are you on, the gutter press' or the doctors' ?!
    Now we shall see whether the BMA et al are worthy of the doctors they purport to represent ??

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