Justice for Health, a campaign group consisting of 5 junior doctors who received £300,000 in crowdfunding from 10,000 supporters, wants the court to overturn Hunt’s decision to use what he called his “nuclear option” of imposition, and rule that he broke the law in choosing to push it through. They argue that he has no authority to force a contract which has not been shown to be wanted by employers. Jeremy Hunt’s counsel started by asking for the case to be thrown out as the new contract was a non binding recommendation to employers not an imposition but the judge refused to do so saying that it was a serious matter which should be heard .
The group have also claimed that Hunt had misrepresented mortality rates regarding the ‘weekend effect’. While there is some evidence that patients admitted at the weekend are more likely to die within 30 days, this is a complex issue which is has never been directly linked to junior doctor staff numbers. Weekend mortality is bound to be greater because only emergency cases are admitted not routine cases. When this is taken to account the ‘weekend effect’ is much diminished and most doctors and experts believe that is is mainly due to a lack of access to investigations such as scans and consultant supervision. Stretching the existing workforce around 7 days may create more gaps during the week days and worsen patient services then.
Justice Green, the judge planned to issue his judgment on 28 September, just a few days before junior doctors across England are due to take part in the first five-day strike in the long-running dispute. The strike is planned to start on 5 October, the day the contract is due to be imposed on all trainee doctors below consultant level. The six previous walkouts held since January have lasted one or two days.
Junior doctors had enormous support before, the majority of the public supported them and they had near unanimous backing from consultants and other doctors who came in to cover their work so patient safety did not suffer. Nurses and other hospital staff also supported them as they too feel vulnerable and fear the government will remove their weekend pay rates. However many people, this time have expressed alarm that it is 5 day strike and public support seems to be ebbing.