Lawyers acting for junior doctors will attend a hearing in the High Court later this month to question the legality of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors, which was rejected in a vote this week by members of the British Medical Association (BMA).
The High Court hearing, which will also be attended by lawyers representing the Department of Health, is one of two legal cases concerning junior doctors’ contracts, which were stalled pending the outcome of the BMA ballot. There has been no decision on whether the second case – which is contesting the contract on equality grounds – will be reinstated, a BMA spokesman said.
Saimo Chahal, partner at law firm Bindmans who is representing the independent campaign group Justice for Health, said: “The secretary of state appears to have re-adopted his role as a decision maker and has purported to decide that the new contract should be introduced in the NHS.
“It remains wholly unclear precisely what this means because the secretary of state only has a power to recommend that NHS bodies use this contract but no power to impose it. We are considering the legal implications.”
Junior doctors and medical students voted against the new contracts – details of which had been agreed by the BMA, Acas and the government in May – by a majority of 58 per cent. The ballot had a turnout of 37,000 (68 per cent).
Addressing the House of Commons following the ballot, Hunt said the vote had left the junior doctors’ contract debate in a “no-man’s land that, if it continues, can only damage the NHS”.
He said the only way past the issue, which has been in debate for three years, was to go ahead with the “phased introduction of the exact contract that was negotiated, agreed and supported by the BMA leadership”.
Johann Malawana, chairman of the junior doctors’ committee at the BMA resigned as a result of the ballot.
Hunt said “protracted uncertainty” following Brexit would only further damage the NHS, those working in it and its patients. Under current plans, the new contracts will be phased in between October this year and October 2017.
BMA junior doctor committee interim chair, Dr Ellen McCourt, said it was “extremely disappointing” that the government was pushing ahead with the introduction of the new contracts.
“By choosing this route, rather than building on progress made and addressing the outstanding issues which led to a rejection of the contract by many junior doctors, the government is simply storing up problems for the future,” she said.
Looking to address the outstanding concerns, Hunt said NHS Employers had agreed to work with the BMA to monitor the implementation of the contract and improve rostering practice for junior doctors. He added: “Nor will we let up on efforts to eliminate the gender pay gap. Today I can announce that I will commission an independent report on how to reduce and eliminate that gap in the medical profession as well. I will announce shortly who will be leading that important piece of work, which I hope to have initial considerations from in September.”
The terms of the contract agreed by the BMA, Acas and the government will see weekend working become ‘plain time’ – part of a junior doctor’s normal working week. Junior doctors who work more than six weekends in a year will qualify for an extra pay allowance, up to a maximum of 10 per cent, which will increase the more weekends they work.
It is predicted that junior doctors’ basic pay will rise by between 10 and 11 per cent on average, night shifts will attract a 37 per cent increased pay rate – less than existing night shift rates of 50 per cent.
Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/07/07/high-court-to-decide-legality-of-government-imposing-junior-doctor-contracts.aspx