THE BMA doctors’ union has hailed the Court of Appeal ruling on rest breaks as ‘a significant victory for junior doctors’.
Commenting on the Court of Appeal ruling over junior doctors’ rest breaks in which senior judges concluded that Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s arrangements for monitoring breaks were in breach of trainee medics’ contracts – Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said:
‘The 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.
‘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.’
The 21 junior doctors who took the case forward said Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust failed to make sure they either took proper breaks or were paid extra for working.
Lord Justice Bean said the trust’s method of calculating breaks was ‘irrational’ and a breach of contract.
It is estimated the trainees could be owed £250,000 in unpaid salary.
Junior doctors across the NHS should get a 30-minute break every four hours they work or be paid double for the time.
Lord Justice Bean said Derby Hospitals’ method of calculation ‘is both in breach of the contract on its proper interpretation and also irrational’.
Dr Sarah Hallett, who trained at the Royal Derby Hospital for eight months with 20 other junior doctors in 2013, led the appeal after she lost a High Court challenge last April.
She tweeted the ruling was a ‘bittersweet victory’.