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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.