Justice for Health takes on Hunt over failing the public
by Sofia Lotto Persio
JUNIOR doctors advocacy group Justice for Health launched a High Court challenge yesterday to prevent the imposition of Jeremy Hunt’s new contract.
The group, which opposes the Health Secretary’s “unsafe and unsustainable” new contract for junior doctors, argue that Mr Hunt has “acted outside of his powers, failed in his duty of clarity to Parliament and the public and has been irrational in decision-making.”
Barrister Jenni Richards, who leads Justice for Health’s legal team, said that Mr Hunt could recommend a new contract, but had no power to impose it. She added he had acted in breach of the “requirements of transparency, certainty and clarity.”
Mr Hunt’s legal team dismissed the claim as “wholly without substance,” arguing that he had not decided to “compel” NHS employers to use the new contract, but had decided to “approve” the new contract.
Judge Mr Justice Green is expected to deliver a ruling next Wednesday that could halt the contract’s implementation, due to be introduced next month.
Following several strikes by junior doctors since the beginning of the year, with more planned should the new contract be implemented, the litigation marks the latest stage of opposition to Mr Hunt’s plans for seven-day NHS services in England.
“We hope that the judge will quash previous and current decisions of the Secretary of State,” said Doctor Ben White, one of Justice for Health’s founders.
Mr White was one of the signatories of an open letter criticising Mr Hunt for claiming that patients admitted at the weekend are at greater risk of dying due to too few doctors on duty.
The letter, backed by Professor Stephen Hawking among other experts, challenged the evidence for Mr Hunt’s claims as unreliable and lacking independent peer-review.
It also accused the Health Secretary of having “cherry-picked research causing a devastating breakdown of trust between government and the medical profession.”
The letter called for an independent inquiry into the process behind Mr Hunt’s policies: “It is wrong to waste precious resources, or lives, because of bad evidence.
“Like NHS treatments, health policy should be evidence-based to demonstrate clinical and cost-effectiveness.”