It is now established, beyond doubt, that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, is not imposing the disputed contract on junior doctors and that employers of junior doctors are not legally compelled to use it.
Judicial Review heard on the 19th&20th September
Judge Rules: HUNT NOT IMPOSING CONTRACT
Courtroom evidence confirms:
● Mr Hunt is not imposing
● He never was
● He never meant to suggest he was
● He claims no one ever thought he was
“In last minute legal acrobatics, Judicial proceedings have forced Health secretary Jeremy Hunt to clarify his legal position: he is not imposing the junior doctors contract and never was.” Dr Marie-Estella McVeigh
Despite this clarification, the damage that misleading statements have already done to NHS staff and patients may never be undone. A year of industrial action, uncertainty and disruption to patient care could easily have been avoided had Mr Hunt been honest and clear from the outset.
Justice for Health was founded in March 2016 by five frontline junior doctors: Dr Marie-Estella McVeigh, Dr Ben White, Dr Francesca Silman, Dr Nadia Masood and Dr Amar Mashru to fight imposition of the junior doctors’ contract.
After a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign, thousands of backers facilitated the landmark case in the high court, where it has forced Hunt to reveal the truth of his legal position.
Eleventh-hour submissions of evidence by the defence exposed the SoS as now merely ‘recommending’ NHS Trusts adopt his disputed contract. Importantly, his defence clarified scope for further negotiations between junior doctors and their employers.
Jeremy Hunt responded in parliament on April 18th “Yes, we are imposing a new contract”, yet, to the sound of gasps around the courtroom, the defence tried to argue there was ‘not a shred of evidence that any junior doctor believed he was imposing’ a contract. His duplicity has let down staff and patients in the NHS.
The judgment states:
“a. On 6th July following Mr Hunt’s statement in parliament, junior doctors were led to understand that he intended to impose the disputed contract, excluding daylight for further negotiation.
b. The SoS failed to spell out to parliament that it remains open to employers to choose to engage in negotiations with employees’ representatives, the BMA.
c. There is now a public record of SoS’s acceptance he is not exercising any power of compulsion.”
Justice Green stated “the grounds advanced by junior doctors were serious and properly arguable, raised important points of principle about the powers of the SoS under the NHSA 2006 and as to the manner in which he should act in exercising those powers, and generally raised an issue of wider public importance”.
The QC for the defence argued that Mr Hunt cannot be held accountable for remarks made in the “rough and tumble and hurly burly of parliamentary debate”, even when the remarks are made repeatedly. Justice Green commented that whilst the SoS is not entitled to hide behind Parliamentary privilege to avoid the scrutiny of the courts, it is not in the remit of his court to pass judgment on the issue. It will be for Parliament to decide if they have been misled.
“Our Health Secretary was willing to continue to mislead; to allow walkouts, disruption and uncertainty, until the very moment his job was on the line in front of a Judge – this speaks volumes”. Dr Amar Mashru
“It is finally clear that reckless Hunt is not imposing a contract on junior doctors, despite saying it many times. The threat of a ‘nuclear option’ was simply not true.” Dr Ben White
“Hunt’s lack of clarity caused thousands of doctors to walk out and caused chaos for the NHS. It beggars belief that a man who claims to be a patient safety champion could allow such a situation to occur.” Dr Nadia Masood
“The judgment frees us from the shackles of Jeremy Hunt’s hasty and ill-conceived timeline. NHS employers may now work collaboratively with the BMA to agree a contract that works for staff and patients, prioritising patient safety and NHS sustainability” Dr Francesca Silman
Judicial Review judgment quote:
“One significant consequence of this litigation therefore has been that the Secretary of State has, properly and reasonably, taken the opportunity to put his position beyond doubt. Without granting declarations I can nonetheless, formally, record the position of the Secretary of State as articulated in these proceedings. First, the Secretary of State does not purport to exercise any statutory power that he may have to compel employers within the NHS to introduce the proposed terms and conditions. Second, he acknowledges, therefore, that in principle individual employers are free to negotiate different terms with employees…”
Source: Justice for Health