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A High Court ruling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposed new contract for junior doctors has been reported as a victory for Mr Hunt – but how does it affect accounting for junior doctors?

The contract makes it more difficult for those who work weekends to know exactly how much they will earn – replacing simple ‘unsociable hours’ pay grades with a system of supplements based on the number of weekends worked.

Ostensibly the plans are about creating a genuinely seven-day NHS, but junior doctors have taken several strike actions in recent months amid their own concerns that the quality of patient care, and their own working conditions, will be adversely affected.

Eventually the campaign group Justice for Health launched legal action, which was taken to the High Court where, on September 28th, Mr Justice Green ruled officially in favour of Mr Hunt.

But the picture is not one of simple defeat for the campaigners, as Mr Hunt’s victory was secured only by an eleventh-hour clarification that he is not ‘imposing’ the contract on NHS Trusts, but instead is only recommending that it should be adopted as the new model contract.

Saimo Chahal QC(Hons), lawyer for Justice for Health, summarised the ruling as follows: “Employers of junior doctors are not legally compelled to adopt the contract, and can continue to negotiate on terms until agreement is reached.

“Justice for Health are satisfied that … most importantly their doctor colleagues as well as employers now understand the true legal position – there is no contract which has been imposed on them. Employees and employers can discuss and negotiate terms.”

It remains to be seen to what extent NHS Trusts will choose to enforce the new recommended contract without further changes – but for junior doctors it should mean there is still at least the potential for negotiation on payment terms.