A high court judge granted campaign group Justice for Health a 'full, expedited judicial review' during a case management hearing last week.
Justice for Health – established by five junior doctors including two GP trainees – argues that the health secretary does not have the power to impose a contract on junior doctors. The group is calling for clarity over whether Jeremy Hunt is seeking to recommend that NHS trusts adopt the new contract, or believes he can impose it.
The case is expected to take place in September, in the month before introduction of the new junior doctor contract is expected to begin.
Mr Hunt decided to impose the contract earlier this month, after junior doctors voted to reject proposals agreed on by NHS Employers and BMA negotiators following months of talks and strike action.
Doubts emerged over whether the case could continue after Justice for Health was hit by unexpected demands for additional security costs from DH lawyers on Wednesday, just 24 hours before a case management hearing to determine whether it would proceed.
They were told to set aside £150,000 in a cost protection order – the amount Mr Hunt's legal team could seek from Justice for Health should they lose their case – when this figure had previously been set at £30,000.
The group has successfully managed to raise this sum in an ‘emergency’ fundraiser using the crowd sourcing website Crowd Justice, which allows members of the public to donate money to support legal cases.
The £150,000 target was met on Monday, with three days of fundraising remaining. Without the full amount in place, the judge may not have allowed the case to continue.
Justice for Health has funded all stages of its legal challenge through the website, initially raising £134,000 when the contract was first imposed and it launched legal action in April.
Junior doctor strikes
Speaking on Thursday, Justice for Health said: ‘Today we have had a good day in the High Court challenging Mr Hunt's position on imposition, the judge has heard our initial proposals and granted us a full, expedited judicial review hearing expected in September.
'The judge remarked that this is an important case that has merit and needs to be heard in the public interest.’
GPonline contacted the DH for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously confirmed that foundation trusts have the technical powers to determine their own staff pay and conditions. But he told MPs earlier this year: ‘The reality within the NHS is that we have a strong tradition of collective bargaining, so in practice trusts opt to use national contracts. As the secretary of state is entitled to do, I have approved the terms of the national contract.’
Photo: Alexander Christie