Junior doctors’ contract to be challenged in courts
16th Mar 2016
The government’s new junior doctors’ contract is to be challenged in the courts on the grounds of patient safety by a group of doctors and patients.
The group has asked Bindman’s LLP solicitors to investigate judicial review proceedings, which will focus on the detrimental impact of the proposed new contract on the safety of patients, as well as the stability of the NHS as a whole.
The group is backed by prominent medical staff and patient safety advocates including Dr Phil Hammond, the vice-president of the Patients Association.
Hammond said that “No one can say whether the new contract will be better or worse for patients than the existing one. Medicine is littered with examples where expert and political opinion has trumped proper scientific evaluation, at huge cost to patients.”
Last month Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, told parliament that he would impose the revised terms and conditions on junior doctors in August after two months of negotiations failed to end the long-running dispute.
The new junior doctors’ contract, which includes making Saturday part of junior doctors’ core hours, is part of the proposal to increase services at the weekend to deliver Hunt’s ”seven-day NHS” plans.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is already seeking a judicial review over the imposition of the contract, although government lawyers have argued this is “misconceived”.
However, a doctor from the team, Dr Ben White, has said that independent legal action would be broader in scope. “I don’t think the BMA have represented the problem very well,” said White. “The grassroots doctors have done much better but we haven’t really had any tools to pursue our concerns until now. We think this could be it.”
White is confident that the team will be successful in raising the money. “The imposition of the junior doctors’ contract affects all NHS service users,” he said.
“Staff know that the lack of workforce planning, lack of cost modelling, plus rota and staffing issues, create a perfect storm where patient safety will inevitably be compromised. We must challenge this contract in the high court.”
The group are crowdfunding their action through Crowd Justice, needing to raise an initial £25,000 to start investigation proceedings. Saimo Chahal, a prolific lawyer in the field of judicial review, has already agreed to take on the case and has been working on a pro-bono basis so far.