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13.04.16

Government lawyers say crowd-funded challenge to junior doctors’ contract is groundless

Government lawyers have accused a crowd-funded judicial review into Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose a contract on junior doctors of being without legal grounds and designed to reduce legal costs.

In a scathing response to the judicial review from campaign group Just Health, who raised £98,470 in three days from members of the public to pay its legal costs, Treasury solicitor Oliver Gilman, said that Just Health’s challenge to the validity and reasoning of the contract imposition is without legal merit and that the government will resist any legal proceedings.

He points out that the BMA, who have also launched a judicial review against the contract, have not used those grounds, instead arguing that its end to automatic pay progression and reduction of the hours for which antisocial pay rates will be offered discriminate against female and disabled doctors.

Gilman writes: “Where the relevant trade union, which in the circumstances is plainly the best-placed client, has concluded that grounds of claim of this sort should not be pursued we do not consider that individual trade union members (acting via a shelf company) have sufficient interest for the purposes of bringing a claim for judicial review.

“We are seriously concerned that your client’s approach here is a device intended to prevent the parties driving the litigation being required to bare an appropriate share of the Secretary of State’s legal costs once the claim has been dismissed. It appears that the proposed claim is designed to ventilate a very wide-range of disparate factual and legal issues related (or not) to the new contract. It appears that resisting the claim is likely to be time consuming and expensive for taxpayers, and divert resources away from patient care.”

He says that Just Health’s lawyers fail to identify grounds for saying that Hunt breached public law duty by imposing the contract, that he was not required to consult on the contract because it is legally considered a ‘direction’ not a ‘regulation’, and that there are no grounds to support their argument that the decision to impose the contract was irrational, premature and lacked a reasoned foundation. He refuses to disclose documents sought by the group.

Junior doctors are set to strike again on 26 and 27 April in protest at the contract, including an unprecedented withdrawal of emergency care, despite warnings from Professor Terence Stephenson, chair of the General Medical Council, that patients are at increased risk as a consequence.

(Image c. Frank Augstein from AP/ Press Association Images)

Comments

Jonathandevon   14/04/2016 at 09:18

I hope the Just Health action wins. The junior doctors are right to point out that a full 7-day service can't be delivered with only a 5-day staffing level. Trying to force this through can only be unfair and also unsafe.

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