• Letter from Government Legal Department says government gave proper regard to equality issues in junior doctors’ contract
  • Letter references HSJ story that revealed BMA’s lawyers warned judicial review would not prevent imposition
  • Junior doctors to start first of three 48 hour strikes on Wednesday

The government’s lawyers have said the British Medical Association’s bid for a judicial review against plans to impose a new junior doctors’ contract is “bound to fail”.

The letter from the Government Legal Department says the government gave proper regard to the requirement under the Equality Act 2010 to show “due regard” to equalities issues.

Doctor strike Jan 2016

Doctor strike Jan 2016

Junior doctors will strike from 8am on Wednesday for 48 hours

Last month the doctor’s union announced it was launching a judicial review, claiming the government had failed to undertake an equality impact assessment prior to its decision to impose the new contract from August.

The legal action was in addition to three 48 hour strikes, the first of which is set to begin at 8am on Wednesday.

The letter, addressed to the BMA’s lawyers Capital Law, says the union’s claim is “misconceived”.

“The secretary of state has had proper regard to the [public sector equality duty] throughout the process thus far,” it says.

“Moreover, a decision as to the final terms and conditions of the new contract has not yet been made.

“Before making this decision, the secretary of state will have sight of, and will take proper account of, a full [equality impact assessment].”

The letter says the draft final terms and the equality assessment will be provided to the health secretary “very shortly”, and he could amend the terms in light of the assessment.

“In the circumstances, the secretary of state considers that your client’s claim is bound to fail,” it continues.

The letter references an HSJ story from last month, which revealed that the BMA’s lawyers had warned that the legal action would “definitely not” prevent the government from imposing a contract.

Their guidance said there was “nothing inherently unlawful about the proposed contract”, and there was nothing to prevent the health secretary reconsidering equality issues and making the decision to impose a contract again.

They concluded a judicial review should be seen as a “last throw of the dice”, which could create a window of opportunity for the junior doctor’s committee to secure further improvements to the contract.

The Government Legal Department letter says: “We hope that your client will refrain from instituting costly, and ultimately ineffectual, proceedings; costly both to the claimant’s members and to the taxpayer.”

It adds: “If, however, proceedings are issued, they will be resisted.”

The letter concludes: “We also note that in the HSJ article it was indicated that the BMA had been advised to use the threat of judicial review to initiate further negotiations.

“It is disappointing to read this. The secretary of state had wanted the BMA to negotiate without the threat of judicial review on all of the contract: 90 per cent of the contract had been mutually agreed through negotiation.”

Government lawyers say BMA judicial review 'bound to fail'