As the disputes between junior doctors and the NHS shows no sign of abating, the British Medical Association has announced a legal challenge to the contract that has resulted in so much acrimony.
Legal action has already begun against the government, with the intent of preventing it from imposing the deeply unpopular new contract on forty-five thousand medics currently working within the health service.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has launched a judicial review which challenges the legality of the decision by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to force the new terms and conditions on all junior doctors in England.
Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the union’s junior doctors committee, commented that the union which represents doctors is profoundly opposed to the position of the government, and accused it of irresponsibility.
“In trying to push through these changes, prior to imposing a new contract the government failed to give proper consideration to the equalities impact this contract could have on junior doctors. So today the BMA has issued proceedings to launch a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the health secretary’s decision to impose the new junior doctor contract.”
The Department of Health wasted no time in responding to this judicial challenge, suggesting that the contract which has been offered to junior doctors is fair and equitable.
“The contract is fair and justified and is good for both staff and patients. We consider that the new contract will advance equality of opportunity Where the new contract may have any adverse effect on people with protected characteristics, such an effect does not result in discrimination as the new contract is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or aims.”
Junior doctors have raised concerns that the contract will discriminate against female doctors who take time off to have children or those who work part-time.
But the Department of Health responded to this particular accusation by stating that “while there are features of the new contract that impact disproportionately on women, of which some we expect to be advantageous and others disadvantageous, we do not consider that this would amount to indirect discrimination as the impacts can be comfortably justified.”
And the response of the department further suggested that the contract would ensure that doctors remain extremely well paid in the future.
Junior doctors will strike for the fourth time in the coming days, which will run for 48 hours from Wednesday 6th April.
They are also due to stage two all-out strikes during normal working hours (8am to 5pm) on 26th and 27th April.
This will represent the first time in NHS history that doctors have point-blank refuse to provide even emergency cover.