It turns out the junior doctors actually won the court battle against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The Justice for Health team delivered the crowdfunded legal challenge to stop the junior doctors’ contract being imposed. And that’s what was achieved.
Hunt was forced to claim that he was never going to impose the contract, never suggested he was and that nobody thought he was doing so. But he had previously been warning junior doctors about his “nuclear option”, and repeatedly briefed both parliament and the press that he would force through the contract.
Francesca Silman, a member of Justice for Health, wrote:
It has only been through the case being brought to the high court by Justice for Health, that an apparent U-turn in Hunts position has been achieved.
Justice for Health argued throughout the dispute that health secretaries have no legal power to impose a contract on junior doctors. And that was the verdict of the court case.
Hunt only won because he sidestepped the threat of legal repercussions of imposing the contract.
A Department of Health spokesperson said:
We welcome this clear decision by the judge that the Secretary of State acted entirely lawfully. 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.
But Justice for Health stated:
It is now established, beyond doubt, that the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, is not imposing the disputed contract on junior doctors and that employers of junior doctors are not legally compelled to use it. Throughout the year we have seen the SoS [Secretary of State] repeatedly declare imposition of the new contract on junior doctors. Through the process of litigation in the High Court we finally have clarity on his decision-making and legal powers.
The group of five junior doctors insisted:
Mr Hunt’s last minute legal acrobatics have saved him from losing the case but bring no comfort to the thousands affected by his actions in the last year.
Hunt’s contract is paradoxical because it demands more from the NHS while providing nowhere near enough funding or staff. One junior doctor said:
The way to solve this is to increase the number of doctors, to increase the number of support service and increase the funding of the NHS.
Justice for Health told The Canary that the contract “spells disaster for staff and patients who rely on the NHS”.
So why would the government follow through with it?
Well, Hunt co-authored a book in 2005 calling for the NHS to be replaced with a privatised insurance system. Accordingly, the Health and Social Care Act legally abolished the NHS as a public service in 2012, opening it up to privatisation. And in 2014 alone, 40% – £3.54bn – of new NHS contracts were awarded to private firms.
One might conclude that the government plans to distract from privatisation by dressing its NHS plans up as patient-centred progress under the ‘7-day NHS’ buzzword.
At the Conservative Party conference this weekend, there is an event calling for further privatisation of our health service. It is hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, which plans to totally abolish the NHS. All of the speakers advocate more private provision in the NHS.
Last July, the government quietly proposed an inquiry into moving towards a ‘pay for’ NHS. At the recent G20 Summit in China, Theresa May reaffirmed her party’s avid support of ‘free trade’ deals like TTIP, NAFTA, TPP and TISA, which could cement existing NHS privatisation.
This is the aim of the Conservative Party: for profiteering private companies, like Virgin, Circle, Bupa, Serco, UnitedHealth and even Lockheed Martin, to feast upon our public health service.
Fortunately, junior doctors like those in Justice for Health are fighting back. Hunt can no longer impose the dangerous contract.
Let’s take care of the doctors who take care of us.
– Read the full judgement here.
– Sign the petition to stop the junior doctors’ contract.
– Keep up to date with campaigns and protests to save the NHS.
Featured image via Screengrab
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