Junior doctors have won court case against Jeremy Hunt even though judge ruled against them. Here’s the reason

Doctors from Justice for Health walk past supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice [Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images].

Doctors from Justice for Health walk past supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice [Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images].

Headlines have been claiming that the junior doctors of Justice for Health have lost the judicial review of Jeremy Hunt’s new contract for them – but these are based on a misunderstanding of the case.

In order to avoid a judgement against Mr Hunt, lawyers for the Department of Health had to admit that the Health secretary had no powers to “impose” the controversial and dangerous contract; he could only encourage employers to introduce it.

This is not what Mr Hunt has been claiming, of course, and represents a huge amount of backtracking by the Conservative Government.

Justice for Health says this means junior doctors are free not to sign the contract and to demand further negotiations.

With the contract due to be phased into operation from next week, it seems the next move is Mr Hunt’s.

If he insists on a contract that is unsafe for patients being signed by doctors who have sworn an oath to protect their safety, how many will sign?

Junior doctors have lost a judicial review challenging the legality of a controversial new contract, which is now set to be introduced next week.

In a judgment published on Wednesday, Mr Justice Green rejected arguments presented at the high court by five junior doctors that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had exceeded his powers.

The decision means that the long-running impasse over the contract remains. The junior doctors, who formed the group Justice for Health, claimed Green’s finding that Hunt was not imposing the contract, but merely encouraging employers to introduce it, was a victory for them.

Their interpretation was that it meant medics were free not to sign it and opened the door to negotiations with the NHS nationally or at trust level, although such a prospect appears unlikely.

Source: Junior doctors fail in high court challenge of new contract’s legality | Society | The Guardian


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6 thoughts on “Junior doctors have won court case against Jeremy Hunt even though judge ruled against them. Here’s the reason

  1. Roland Laycock

    ODear Mr Justice Green as dropped a clanger, I could have said he would back hunt after all our judiciary system is pro tory always as been just look at all the industrial disputes over the years

  2. Roy Beiley

    You may be right Mike but I don’t expect the MSM will report it like that. They will be crowing that the Junior Doctors ‘lost’. Seems to leave it now up to individual doctors to sign or not sign according to how that view their Oath. What will happen to those that don’t sign? Redundancy? Have to move abroad? I think Hunt will have got enough of what he wanted by destroying their former unity.

  3. Joy

    Nowhere does Justice Green say that Jeremy Hunt cannot impose the contract. Quite to the contrary, he says that the SoS has explicit powers to impose a contract on NHS Trusts. And that though his powers of compulsion are not explicit for NHS Foundation Trusts, under the relevant NHSA 2006 legislation Hunt’s powers and scope of duties are extremely broad. Under a catch all clause, he is essentially given leave to do “anything” he deems necessary to improve NHS services, taking precedence over the 2012 HSCA which offered NHS trusts a greater degree of autonomy. So in principle, he can very much impose. Which is something he claimed he would consider should trusts not implement the contract in a consistent fashion.

    Worth saying that a decision to unilaterally compel trusts would naturally be open to legal challenge, however the claimant would have to prove that the imposition of the contract for the better running of NHS services was not rational (something very similar to what Justice Green has already passed judgement on in favour of the government), and that this decision would go beyond Hunt’s powers as described in the NHS Act 2006 (which the judge found to be far reaching enough in scope to include mandating the terms of employment for all NHS staff).

    Secondly, the judge was very clear in his remarks that this was not a U-turn – the Health Secretary’s intentions were never to compel trusts, nor did he find that Jeremy Hunt had been deliberately deceptive in failing to make this clear. Rather that Hunt’s ambiguity in announcing his decision on the 6th July led to misunderstandings on the part of only one affected party (namely the junior doctors), and as clarity was provided soon after Hunt was not found to be at fault in the eyes of the law.

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