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Junior doctors urged to abandon industrial action after court ruling on contract

Published 28/09/2016

Junior doctors have complained that Jeremy Hunt wrongly imposed the contract on NHS employers
Junior doctors have complained that Jeremy Hunt wrongly imposed the contract on NHS employers

Doctors' leaders have been urged to stop threatening industrial action in the wake of a High Court judge's ruling on an NHS contract dispute.

A campaign group complained that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrongly imposed the contract on NHS employers.

Justice for Health, a group founded by five doctors, said Mr Hunt acted beyond the scope of his powers by compelling NHS employers to adopt the new deal.

But Mr Justice Green has dismissed the claim, after a High Court hearing in London,.

Ministers say the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, should now remove the threat of further action.

The litigation followed opposition to Mr Hunt's plans for seven-day NHS services in England.

Junior doctors began strikes, the longest of which has lasted two days, in January.

BMA bosses have suspended strikes planned for October, November and December because of patient safety concerns.

But the doctors' union says it still opposes the new contract and plans "a range of other actions".

"We must now move on from this dispute to the crucial job of making sure patients get the same high standards of urgent and emergency care every day of the week, which involves more than the junior doctors' contract," said a Department of Health spokeswoman.

"We urge the BMA to remove all threat of further industrial action so we can work constructively with junior doctors to address their wider concerns and better recognise their vital importance to the NHS."

Dr Ellen McCourt, who chairs the BMA's junior doctor committee, said the judge's decision should not be seen as a Government "win".

"This ruling will do nothing to address the fact that morale amongst junior doctors is at an all-time low," she said.

"Nor will it quell junior doctors' concerns about the imminent introduction of a flawed contract they have rejected or the deep sense of anger and mistrust that has built up towards the Government over the last year."

She added: "Faced with a demotivated and frustrated workforce, the Government must prioritise rebuilding the trust that has been lost."

A BMA spokeswoman said that no decision has been made regarding the prospect of further action.

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