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Junior doctors begin legal battle over contract

Doctors will challenge Jeremy Hunt at High Court

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 19 September 2016

Junior doctors are today beginning a legal challenge at the High Court in London over health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose a new working contract on the profession.

The campaign group called Justice for Health, founded in March by five frontline junior doctors – Dr Francesca Silman (a GP registrar), Dr Nadia Masood, Dr Ben White, Dr Amar Mashru and Dr Marie-Estella McVeigh – will begin its challenge against the imposition of what it calls an “unsafe and unsustainable contract” on doctors from next month.

The ongoing dispute between the BMA and the Department of Health over a new contract for junior doctors escalated recently when the BMA junior doctors’ committee announced it would hold three strikes – all five days long – in October, November and December, after dropping its initial plan to hold an additional strike in September.

Junior doctors and supporters were expected to gather to protest outside the High Courts today at the first day of the two-day hearing.

A record breaking £300,000 was raised by more than 10,000 donations through the online crowd-funding platform CrowdJustice to fund the action.

A statement from Justice for Health said: “The Secretary of State [SOS] intends to impose the disputed contract on all junior doctors in England from October 5th 2016.

“NHS frontline staff and academics have rejected this contract as it is considered unsafe, unsustainable and undeliverable.

“The SOS’s insistence on imposition has led to the doctors’ union calling to drop imposition in order to prevent any further industrial action.”

During the hearing, the group’s team of lawyers will put three public law arguments to the judge that Mr Hunt has acted outside of his powers; failed in his duty of clarity to parliament and the public; and been irrational in decision-making.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are resisting the application for judicial review, and will seek to persuade the Court that the case is without merit.”

Mr Justice Green is presiding over the hearing and a final judgement will be announced before the end of the month.

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