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BMA to launch judicial review on contract imposition

Three more days of industrial action announced

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The British Medical Association (BMA) is to launch a judicial review in its fight against the government’s decision to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England. 

In addition, the organisation has announced three further strikes.

The BMA says the government failed to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) prior to its decision on February 11 to impose a new contract on junior doctors in England from August.

Under the Equality Act 2010, the Government must show ‘due regard’ to equalities issues, typically assessed through an EIA prior to making a decision, the BMA states.

This comes as junior doctors in England have today confirmed three further dates of industrial action. In a BMA ballot of junior doctors last November, 98% of those who voted supported taking industrial action, demonstrating the strength of opposition amongst the profession to Government plans.

The strikes will involve 48-hour emergency care only, starting on each of the following dates:

  • March 9 from 8am
  • April 6 from 8am
  • April 26 from 8am

Commenting, Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair, said: “In recent weeks I have heard from thousands of junior doctors across the country, and the resounding message is that they cannot and will not accept what the Government is trying to do.

“It now appears that in trying to push through these changes the Government failed to give proper consideration to the impact this contract could have on junior doctors. This is yet another example of the incompetence which the Government has demonstrated throughout its handling of this dispute.

“Imposing this contract will seriously undermine the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain junior doctors in areas of medicine with the most unsocial hours, where there are already staffing shortages. This will have a significant impact on areas such as emergency medicine, maternity care and paediatrics, to name but a few.”

He added: “We have already seen NHS chief executives refusing to support an imposition, and patient representatives have said they are appalled by this move. Added to this, the Government’s former adviser on patient safety, Don Berwick, has said it should apologise to junior doctors over the contract dispute. The Government must listen to the chorus of concern coming from all quarters and reconsider this disastrous approach.

“The fact is, junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the Government wants more seven-day services then, quite simply, it needs more doctors, nurses and support staff, and the extra investment necessary to deliver them. Rather than address these issues head on, the Government wants to introduce a contract that is unfair and in which junior doctors have no confidence.”

Dr Malawana said the government could avert action by re-entering talks with the BMA and addressing the outstanding issues and concerns junior doctors have

“If it pushes ahead with plans to impose a contract that junior doctors have resoundingly rejected we will be left with no option but to take this action. The Government must put patients before politics, get back around the table and find a negotiated solution to this dispute.”

In response to the BMA decision to take industrial action, Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers said: “It is disappointing that the BMA has decided to announce further industrial action despite the majority of the BMA’s concerns being addressed and reflected in the final contract. This disruption to patient care is unnecessary. I strongly believe that the final contract is safe, fair and reasonable. For the sake of the NHS, and patients I urge all junior doctors to take a look at the contract in detail before taking part in any future action.”

The Department of Health has described further strike action as ‘unnecessary’. 

"Further strike action is completely unnecessary and will mean tens of thousands more patients face cancelled operations – over a contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA and which senior NHS leaders including Simon Stevens have endorsed as fair and safe. The new contract will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise, and will bring down the maximum number of hours doctors can work. We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the contract and the clear benefits it brings."

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