Justice for Health, the group of junior doctors who have crowdfunded a record £300,000 (from 10,000 people) finally got their day in court today. It was part of a two-day judicial review into the legality of the Secretary of State’s decision to impose a contract upon junior doctors.
The official verdict is not expected until 28 September, and there is a further day of hearings to come as we go to press. The process will have been uncomfortable for the Secretary of State and his supporters.
The argument put forward by the Justice for Health lawyers is that Jeremy Hunt does not have the power to impose a contract on NHS employers or by association on junior doctors. The Department of Health lawyers argue that the Department of Health is not imposing a contract, simply recommending one.
It is an interesting line of defence, as the Secretary of State is documented in Hansard as stating his intent to impose a contract. If this judicial review falls, the ball is clearly in Labour’s court to hold the Secretary of State to account for misleading Parliament.
The court case neatly encapsulates everything junior doctors have been fighting against. A government willing to change their statements at will, to support the imposition of an unevidenced manifesto commitment, using their influence over Health Education England and the General Medical Council to force through imposition and threaten junior doctors out of industrial action.
Regardless of the outcome of this trial there will be questions for the Department of Health to answer, and the fight for a safe and fair contract for junior doctors will continue.