Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust breached a junior doctor’s contract by failing to carry out rota checks correctly, the court of appeal has ruled in a test case supported by the BMA.
The ruling confirms 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 BMA junior doctors committee deputy chair Sarah Hallett 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 is not seeking financial compensation.
The court 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.
This means the 20 trainees had their rotas banded incorrectly so were underpaid. Trainees who have suffered financial loss as a result of incorrect rota checks in the past six years may be able to make a claim for pay they are owed.
Failure to spot issues
JDC chair Jeeves Wijesuriya described the ruling as a ‘victory for junior doctors’.
‘Our objective has always been to establish the correct interpretation in the law to both protect patient safety and the interests of junior doctors,' he said.
‘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,’ he added.
University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust executive medical director Magnus Harrison said: ‘It is important that we reflect carefully on the judgment and whether it should be appealed. We are working closely with our legal representatives and relevant stakeholders and we will make a decision in due course.’
Find out more about the ruling and what members who may be affected can do
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