Jeremy Hunt 'backtracking' over contract imposition, say junior doctors

Junior doctors have accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of backtracking over his intention to impose the controversial new contract.

The Just Health group, founded by five junior doctors including two GP trainees, begins legal proceedings today against the DH over plans to impose the contract.

The group claims the health secretary does not have the legal powers to impose a contract on most juniors who are employed by independent NHS Foundation Trusts.

The group has pointed to what it believes is a significant shift in language in legal correspondence between its lawyers and the government.

Junior doctor contract

In the letters, the group claimed, the government referred to its intention to ‘introduce’ rather than impose the contract.

But Mr Hunt denied on social media that there had been any change in approach. ‘New contract will be introduced for FY1s from this August,' he tweeted.

GP trainee and Just Health co-founder Dr Marie-Estella McVeigh said: ‘The reaction of the government’s legal team in changing their use of language, vindicates our belief that the imposition of this dangerous new contract is fundamentally wrong, and as we suspected – illegal.’

Just Health raised more than £135,000 from a crowdfunding campaign in  order to fund the judicial review. The group has also kept a vigil outside DH in Whitehall where they have said they will remain until Mr Hunt agrees to meet and talk with them.

Junior doctor strikes

The group’s case against the government alleged DH has no legal power to impose the junior doctors contract on the majority of doctors, and that where he could in theory impose it on the small proportion working for NHS Trusts, he could only do so after consultation.

The government’s lawyers have dismissed the claim as ‘misconceived' and 'bound to fail'.

Former Liberal Democrat health minister and lawyer Norman Lamb MP told The Guardian: ‘It appears that this is now in a state of shambles and that the secretary of state is in a hole and can’t move forward on this. The government’s latest legal position seems to show that Jeremy Hunt had no power to impose [the contract] all along.’

Mr Lamb added: ‘This is quite a dramatic change from the assumption that people have had that the health secretary is able to force junior doctors to abide by this contract. If he’s changed the language from ‘imposing’ to ‘introducing’, it may be that there’s no way the government can continue to try to get this contract implemented. It looks like the contract is dead in the water.’

A DH spokeswoman told The Guardian: ‘New terms are being introduced for junior doctors as their current contract expires – because agreement could not be reached with the BMA. The secretary of state decided the contract should be introduced based on advice from David Dalton.’

Junior doctors will begin the first of two planned full walkouts at 8am Tuesday 26 April with emergency doctors joining the picket lines for the first time in the ongoing dispute.

Photo: iStock

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GPs report rising workload linked to record hospital waiting times

GPs report rising workload linked to record hospital waiting times

Eight in 10 GPs say rising waits for NHS hospital treatment have driven up workload...

Viewpoint: 'Why the RCGP should not adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying'

Viewpoint: 'Why the RCGP should not adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying'

The RCGP is currently surveying members for their views on assisted dying. In response...

Hurried GP consultations 'a scandal', RCGP chair warns

Hurried GP consultations 'a scandal', RCGP chair warns

Hurried consultations in general practice are 'a scandal that needs to be named'...

GMC labels overseas GP registration 'unfit for purpose' as British doctor denied work

GMC labels overseas GP registration 'unfit for purpose' as British doctor denied work

The GMC has labelled the system for registering overseas doctors as 'unfit for purpose'...

Which parts of England are facing a GP retirement timebomb?

Which parts of England are facing a GP retirement timebomb?

In parts of England more than 40% of the GP workforce in permanent roles is aged...

GPs need rapid access to cancer tests to speed up diagnosis, says RCGP

GPs need rapid access to cancer tests to speed up diagnosis, says RCGP

GPs need better access to cancer tests, the RCGP has warned, after research showed...