Supreme Court refuses employer appeal in junior doctor monitoring breach ruling

An employer which sought to appeal a highly significant ruling on junior doctors’ rotas has been refused permission by the Supreme Court.

Location: England
Published: Thursday 9 April 2020
Busy hospital with blurred figures moving through a reception area

Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust breached a junior doctor’s contract by failing to carry out rota checks properly, the Court of Appeal ruled in a BMA-supported test case last July.

The decision by the Supreme Court to refuse the trust leave to appeal means the case is now over.

The Court of Appeal ruling confirmed that commercial software used by Derby and many other trusts and health boards has for years underestimated the long hours and inadequate rest of many junior doctors.

The case was brought by Sarah Hallett, who is now BMA junior doctors committee chair, on behalf of 20 other doctors and relates to a period in 2013 during a general surgery rotation in her first foundation year. Dr Hallett has not sought financial compensation.

Dr Hallett said: “Last year’s ruling was a victory for junior doctors whose hard work, long hours and inadequate rest were underestimated by Trusts and health boards. Throughout the case our objective was always to establish the correct interpretation in the law to both protect patient safety and the interests of junior doctors.

“I would now urge anyone who feels they have been affected by the issues raised in this case to contact the BMA to see if they are eligible to bring forward a claim.”

The Court of Appeal found that the trust had breached Dr Hallett’s contract and ‘acted irrationally’ by inputting ‘expected’ rather than ‘actual’ data into the software to assess whether her duty periods were contract compliant. It meant that the 20 trainees had their rotas banded incorrectly so were underpaid.

The BMA has said that 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.

Find out more about this case and whether you are eligible to bring forward a claim.