• Yesterday’s Court of Appeal decision could lead to “potentially substantial” pay claims
  • Junior doctor Sarah Hallett led case on behalf of 20 other trainees
  • Dr Hallett appealed after losing case in High Court

NHS trusts could face substantial claims for backdated pay from junior doctors after judges ruled one trust had breached their contracts.

The Court of Appeal has ruled against Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust in what could become a landmark decision on how junior doctors’ rest breaks are monitored.

The judgment, handed down yesterday, could mean “potentially substantial” pay claims from thousands of junior doctors going back at least six years.

Judges said Derby Hospitals FT violated its contract with junior doctor Sarah Hallett, who led the test case on the behalf of 20 other trainees.

The British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee deputy chair, who is not seeking compensation, appealed the case after losing in the High Court last April.

Lord Justice Bean said the wider cost to the NHS is “potentially substantial”, according to the Press Association.

Derby Hospitals FT, now known as University Hospital of Derby and Burton FT, may have to shell out £250,000 to Dr Hallett and her colleagues in back pay.

Chief medical director Magnus Harrison told HSJ: “This decision clearly has implications not just for the trust but [for] other NHS employers. It is important we reflect carefully on the judgment and whether it should be appealed.

“We are working closely with our legal representatives and relevant stakeholders and we will make a decision in due course.”

He said the trust valued its junior doctors, stating: “We work hard to ensure excellent training, alongside a good work-life balance for our junior doctors.”

Doctors in the case argued they should get a 30-minute break every four hours or be paid at a higher rate.

The trust used data from advanced rotas rather than actual shift patterns. The Court of Appeal ruled the trust’s methodology was flawed and in breach of the contract.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said the breach was linked to trusts’ use of commercial software which underestimated the hours and rest periods for junior doctors over several years.

He added: “In overturning last year’s ruling, the Court of Appeal has established a binding precedent in England and Wales in favour of the BMA regarding how monitoring of junior doctors on the 2002 contract should be done.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was “disappointed” with the outcome and would support DHFT in any decision it takes. The trust has until 9 August to appeal.

NHS Employers declined to comment.