The doctors’ union alleges the government failed to give proper consideration to an equality impact assessment as required by law when it decided to impose the disputed contract.
The announcement comes hours after the government published its equality impact assessment, and full details of the junior doctor contract it plans to impose.
The BMA said previously the government appeared to have failed to undertake the legally required assessment.
The BMA has not commented on details of terms and conditions of the junior doctor contract published today beyond confirming its plan for a legal challenge. The deal confirms that GP trainees will be offered a flexible pay premium worth £8,200 per year on top of basic pay.
Junior doctor contract
Basic pay will rise on a five-point scale for junior doctors under the new contract, from £27,000 for F1 doctors, £30,000 for F2, £37,000 for CT1/ST1/CT2/ST2, £48,000 for ST4/5/6/7 and £52,000 for ST8 doctors.
The premium for GP trainees is payable only 'whilst the doctor in training is working in a GP practice placement. It is not payable when the doctor is working in a hospital or any other setting', the guidance says.
The assessment published by DH earlier this afternoon said the new contract with pay progression based on responsibility rather than time served was more fair and would advance equality of opportunity between all doctors including between those with protected characteristics (under equalities law), and those who do not.
But, it added, while they may benefit overall, some elements of the contract could adversely affect those who work part-time, carers, and those taking maternity leave, who are all disproportionately women.
It concluded: ‘The new contract is fair and justified as good for both staff and patients. We consider that the new contract will advance equality of opportunity and further good relations between different groups. Insofar as the new contract has an indirect adverse effect on people with protected characteristics we consider that the new contract is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or aims. We envisage that as doctors’ awareness of the reality of the content of the new contract increases, and as doctors gain direct experience of its operation, its popularity will increase.’
The BMA today formally launched its judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the secretary of state’s decision to impose the contract. A spokeswoman said the union had now been through the procedures necessary for proceedings to take place.
Junior doctors are due to walk out for the second 48-hour strike next week. The action, the fourth walkout in the dispute is due to be followed by the two nine-hour full strikes including emergency staff on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April.
BMA junior doctors committee chairman Dr Johann Malawana called the decision to go ahead with the imposition of an ‘unfair’ contract ‘a sign of total failure on the government’s part’.
‘Instead of meaningfully negotiating with the BMA to reach an agreement that would be in the best interest of patients, junior doctors and the NHS, the government walked away, rejecting a fair and affordable offer by the BMA. It has since continued wilfully ignoring the mounting chorus of concern, from doctors, patients and senior NHS managers – the very people who use and provide NHS services.
‘In trying to push through these changes, prior to imposing a new contract, the government failed to give proper consideration to the equalities impact this contract could have on junior doctors. So 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.’
A DH spokeswoman said: ‘The new contract, 90% of which was agreed with the BMA, and endorsed by senior NHS leaders, is a very good deal for doctors and the NHS. It will mean an average 13.5% basic pay rise with a reduction in the number of long shifts that can be worked to improve safety. We urge junior doctors to look at the detail of the full contract and the clear benefits it brings.
‘Our equality impact assessment shows doctors on the new contract will benefit from a fairer pay model that better rewards those who work the most intense and unsocial hours and will improve patient care across seven days. Part-time trainees will now benefit from the same benefits as those working full time, including the same pay protection on a pro-rata basis.
‘We again urge the BMA to take the only reasonable course — call off its unnecessary and irresponsible strike action which will inevitably put patients in harm's way.’
The equalities report concludes: ‘While there are features of the new contract that impact disproportionately on women, of which some we expect to be advantageous and others disadvantageous, we do not consider that this would amount to indirect discrimination as the impacts can be comfortably justified.’