Junior doctors launch legal challenge to Jeremy Hunt contract move
Junior doctors have launched a legal case against Jeremy Hunt’s decision to force through changes to their pay and working hours.
Following a breakdown in negotiations with the British Medical Association, the Health Secretary announced in February he would be imposing a new contract for the medics.
The long-running dispute has seen the first strikes by doctors for decades, with further days of action - including the withdrawal of emergency care - planned for next month.
Announcing the launch of a judicial review, chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, Johann Malawana, argued the move represented the “total failure” on the part of the Government.
He accused Mr Hunt of “wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concern” from NHS professionals as to the safety and equality impact of the contract changes.
“Today, the BMA has issued proceedings to launch a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the health secretary’s decision to impose the new junior doctor contract,” he declared.
“The Government’s shambolic mishandling of the process, from start to finish, has alienated a generation of doctors — the hospital doctors and GPs of the future — leaving a real risk that some will vote with their feet and the future of patient care will be affected.”
Mr Malawana urged the Government to “put politics to one side” and lift the imposition of the contract.
Shadow Heath Secretary Heidi Alexander said: “Jeremy Hunt must start listening to the growing chorus of medical and patient voices who are urging him to think again.
“Patients must always come first and it is time the Government accepted responsibility for their shambolic handling of these negotiations and returned to talks.
“Jeremy Hunt has less than four weeks until the planned walk out. It is vital that he uses that time to find a solution to this dispute that does not involve imposition. If he fails to do so the only losers will be patients.”
Basic pay will rise by more than previously offered under the new contract – by 13.5% instead of 11% – but fewer hours will be eligible for overtime pay.
The changes are designed to make it easier to schedule staff at weekends as part of the Government’s drive to produce a “seven-day NHS”.
The two sides were unable to agree on whether Saturday hours should be eligible for extra pay.
Previous strikes in the row have seen doctors withdraw all but emergency care from patients.
But walkouts set to take place from 08:00 to 17:00 on 26 and 27 April will include the refusal to work in A&E.
Meanwhile another 48-hour stoppage commencing from 08:00 on 6 April will provide emergency cover.