Appeal over junior doctors’ breaks resulted in ‘significant victory’

The BMA has expressed its support regarding the case of a junior doctor who appealed over trainees’ breaks being monitored

A test case of significance across the NHS, in which senior judges concluded that Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s arrangements for monitoring breaks were in breach of trainee medics’ contracts, has been described as a ‘significant victory’.

The trust may have to pay Dr Sarah Hallett – who brought the appeal – and her fellow Royal Derby Hospital trainees around £250,000, in total, for extra pay they missed over an eight-month period.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said of this news:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for junior doctors and confirms that trusts or health boards have been using  commercial software that has underestimated the hard work, long hours and inadequate rest faced by junior doctors for years.

“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 doctor supported by the BMA in the case, Dr Sarah Hallett, is not seeking compensation. Our objective has always been to establish the correct interpretation in the law to both protect patient safety and the interests of junior doctors.

“For those junior doctors on the 2002 contract, banding plays a vital role in ensuring trusts or health boards do not run overly fatiguing or unsafe rotas.

“Yet the widespread use and incorrect application of monitoring software resulted in trusts failing to pick up issues with working conditions, and potentially weakening the protections afforded to junior doctors in their contracts.

“These protections were put in place because it is recognised that junior doctors working long hours, in a system under pressure, with no provision for even a short break will be left exhausted.

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“Throughout this case the BMA been clear that is it vitally important that working hours and the ability to take breaks are properly monitored, rotas are compliant, and sanctions enforced where trusts or health boards have not ensured that there are safe working practices in place.”

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