Advising the BMA on junior doctors case

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What was the challenge?

In November 2015, we were asked by the BMA for advice after it discovered that trusts and health boards had spent years severely underestimating the extent of working hours carried out by junior doctors with inadequate rest breaks. The BMA’s goal was to set a legal precedent that what the trusts were doing was in breach of the contracts of employment they had with junior doctors.

How did we help?

During our investigations, we discovered that the trusts had been inserting false data into the calculations skewing the results, for example, where a junior doctor was on annual leave they would be recorded as having taken their natural breaks. We brought a test claim on behalf of the BMA to enforce the correct method of monitoring of compliance with natural breaks (NBs) by NHS employers, and deter NHS employers from running unsafe rotas.

The case was sensitive and required us to navigate a variety of risks that come from taking on a high-profile case. It was important to assess the reputational and political risks, data protection risks, and challenges in obtaining the data symptomatic of collecting the appropriate evidence and navigating devolved legislation.

As a result of a positive decision in the test case, a number of junior doctors would likely have individual claims for a breach of their contracts of employment, which they may wish to pursue.  We were also required to explore innovative cost-effective solutions for our client, that were in keeping with their trade union status.

What was the outcome?

The Court of Appeal ruled found that the practice of inserting artificial data into the calculation of compliance was in breach of the contract of employment between junior doctors and trusts, which was a tremendous victory for the BMA.

Looking for civil litigation advice?

Our commercial disputes team handles a broad spectrum of litigation from general commercial disputes to high-stakes public law matters.

We are experts in managing cases of significant importance and sensitivity to the client. We also have specific expertise in judicial reviews and handling high-profile judicial review proceedings relating to healthcare policies.

If you’re in the public sector, you can easily access our legal services through the National Procurement Service framework. Or, if you prefer, you can visit our commercial disputes page directly.