2pm update: the High Court has granted an extension to allow Justice for Health campaigners to raise £130,000 to allow their judicial review claim against imposition of the junior doctor contracts to proceed.
They have until mid-August to raise the sum – reduced from the £150,000 sought by the Department of Health. Mr Justice Green said there were matters of public interest that deserved to be considered by the court.
More than £60,000 has already been pledged (7pm update: £90,000) since an emergency appeal was launched last night. To donate, click here: https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/nhs/
It is unclear when a full hearing will take place – and whether this could delay the start of phased imposition of the new contracts from October 1. It is hoped that time for a three-day hearing can be found in September.
Second update: the case was raised in Parliament today by the newly-elected Labour MP for Tooting and former junior doctor Dr Rosena Allin-Khan:
Initial report from this morning: Junior doctors were today fearing defeat in a High Court bid to block Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt from imposing new contracts to create a so-called “seven-day NHS”.
They were “devastated” after an 11th-hour manoeuvre from the Department of Health meant they had to raise an extra £150,000 to cover court costs in the event of their defeat.
The Justice for Health group of five junior medics had already raised more than £180,000 from crowdfunding to bring judicial review proceedings, challenging the alleged “illegal” imposition of the “unsafe” changes to their working hours.
The wider dispute has seen junior doctors hold the first all-out strike in NHS history. Earlier this month, in a bid to end the deadlock after three years of negotiations with the British Medical Association, Mr Hunt said he would introduce the new working arrangements on a phased basis from October.
The junior doctors said: “We were devastated to hear just 24 hours before our case management hearing, that the Secretary of State has now demanded Justice For Health raise a total of £150,000 as security for costs in order to proceed with our case.
“This is a staggering amount of money and we feel it is an underhand tactic to silence junior doctors and prevent us from raising our legitimate concerns in holding Mr Hunt to account.”
About £40,000 had been raised overnight but the case was not expected to receive permission to proceed to a full hearing when it opened this morning.
Lead campaigner Dr Ben White said there remained a “mood of defiance” among the country’s 53,000 junior doctors. He told the Standard: “This is not about increasing doctors’ pay. It’s about putting on the right number of staff and having the right number of hospital beds.
“The Department of Health has improved things slightly, from a terrible contract to a not very good contract. But they are not being honest with the public about the fact that the NHS is stretched already and we cannot stretch it any further.”
A separate application from the BMA, challenging the Government’s failure to carry out an equalities review of the proposed changes, was also due to be dropped.