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Volume 46 Number 19, August 6, 2016 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS

Junior Doctors Say No to Jeremy Hunt's New Contract

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On July 5, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced that the Junior Doctors had voted to reject Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's new contract with 58% voting against in a 68% turnout. The BMA junior doctors committee chair Johann Malawana called on the government to respect the result of the vote and said there should be no transition to the new contract until further talks had taken place. Dr Malawana, who has since resigned, said the vote was a "demonstration of just how appallingly front-line staff have been treated and undermined" and accused the government of overseeing a "fundamental breakdown in trust".

For close to a year, Junior Doctors have fought against Jeremy Hunt's attempt to impose a new contract on them under the guise of a "7-day NHS" in an attempt to hide its real aim of wholesale privatisation for the NHS. The Junior Doctors condemned Hunt's original contract as being neither safe nor fair and have fought back through strike action, including an unprecedented all out strike in April which, against all the scaremongering by the government and national press, won overwhelming public support. Hunt's second contract is merely a re-jigging of his original contract.

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The campaign group Justice for Health, founded by five Junior Doctors in March, accused Jeremy Hunt of acting outside his legal powers in imposing the new contract saying that it is "unsafe and unsustainable". Mr Hunt tried to make out that the decision to impose his second contract "had been difficult", using the specious excuse that the vote for Brexit meant that there was a need for "certainty" in the NHS. What is certain is that the re-election of Hunt is a clear indication of the determination of the government to pursue its programme of systematically running down the NHS and for its the wholesale privatisation. As an article in Workers' Weekly Internet Edition on April 16 pointed out, the government sees the Junior Doctors as a block to their plans to impose a business model on the health service.

The long running fight of the Junior Doctors has now reached a new phase with the vote to reject the contract which the BMA had recommended, as well asJustice for Health's application for judicial review. Just 24 hours before a case management hearing to determine whether this application would proceed, Jeremy Hunt tried to thwart Justice for Health's legal challenge through his legal team's imposition of a £150,000 protection order, the amount Hunt's legal team could seek from Justice for Health if they lost the case. The figure had previously been set at £30,000. However, Hunt's disgraceful denial of any semblance of justice or democracy failed as Justice for Health were able to raise the necessary £150,000 through popular support via the fundraising website Crowd Justice.

At the time of writing, Mr Justice Green is conducting a case management hearing in London and the legal challenge case will take place in September, i.e. the month before Jeremy Hunt's threat to impose his contract in October. Meanwhile, the BMA is advising Junior Doctors not to sign any contract.

Support the Junior Doctors' Legal Challenge!
No to the Privatisation of the Health Service!
Health Care Is a Right! For an NHS Based on Fulfilling this Right!


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