An official response by government lawyers to the BMA rejected the union’s claim that health secretary Jeremy Hunt acted unlawfully by failing to give proper regard to an equality impact assessment (EIA) of the decision to impose the new contract.
The letter was published as tens of thousands of junior doctors prepared for their third walkout in the ongoing and bitter dispute.
GP trainees will join other junior doctors for their first 48-hour strike in the dispute.
NHS England said that over 5,000 procedures had been cancelled ahead of the action by junior doctors, which will not affect urgent and emergency cover. Its national incident director Anne Rainsberry said the strike would put significantly more pressure on the service and the NHS was doing all it could to minimise the effect on patients.
The BMA announced its intention to seek a judicial review of the contract imposition and three 48-hour strikes last month. The union accused Jeremy Hunt of failing to properly carry out the legally required equalities impact assessment.
In the government’s response published Tuesday solicitor Oliver Gilman questioned whether legal action would be a proper use of taxpayers’ and union members’ funds.
Junior doctor contract imposed
Mr Gilman said the public sector equalities duty was a continuing duty and that Mr Hunt had given ‘significant consideration’ to the equalities implications of his decision. Mr Gilman added that the legal claim was ‘bound to fail’.
The letter said Mr Hunt would have sight of the EIA before approving the final draft of the new contract and will make his decision giving proper regard to the duty.
The BMA has yet to respond to a request for comment.