Reports are indicating that hospitals may ignore the action of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to junior doctors’ contracts.
Holland has threatened to impose the contractual conditions that have proved to be such a bone of contention, but it seems that hospitals may refuse to impose these contracts.
None of the 152 foundation trust hospitals in England will be obliged to force their junior doctors to accept the deal and can instead offer them better terms.
This provides the potential for health institutions across the UK to completely blindside the plans of the Health Secretary, in a move that would be extremely well received by junior doctors and other supportive health professionals.
Responding to the newly revealed loophole, the Labour party suggested that the position of the government is becoming untenable.
“Jeremy Hunt’s decision to impose the junior doctors’ contract seems to be unravelling with every day that goes by. The fact that hospitals are trying to find ways around contract imposition underlines the extent to which the decision to impose a contract that nobody wants would destroy morale in the NHS,” said the shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander.
Even some members of the Conservative party have criticised the policy of the Health Secretary.
Dr Dan Poulter MP, who was a health minister until last May, commented that the decision made by Hunt regarding the imposition of the contract represented “a dark day for the NHS and the future of medicine”.
The Department of Health has already responded to media reports, indicating that it is indeed accurate that foundation trusts which are semi-independent of NHS control cannot be compelled to enforce any contract.
“Foundation trusts are not mandated to bring in the new contract. They can negotiate locally. However, [non-foundation] trusts are [obliged to use Hunt’s contract],” a spokesman affirmed.
Increasingly, it seems that the plans of Hunt are completely unworkable, and opposition to the imposition of the contract in particular is growing.
Hunt had claimed in the Commons that a raft of senior NHS leaders back his decision to impose the contract, but this soon unravelled under further examination.
A letter of support signed by numerous prominent individuals has since been disowned by 13 of the 20 supposedly signatories.
Hunt maintains that enforcing the contract is necessary in order to let hospital bosses recruit more junior doctors to work at weekends and usher in the so-called seven-day NHS.
But junior doctors fighting against what they consider to be unfair conditions looks to have increasingly encouraging prospects.