Junior Doctors Win High Court Case Over Rotas & Breaks

Nicky Broyd

July 31, 2019

Junior doctors have won what the High Court has described as a "test case of significance across the whole NHS" over breaks and rotas.

A judge found that the method of calculating breaks used by Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Allocate software, previously known as Zircadian) led to a breach of contract and was "irrational".

The BMA (British Medical Association) said Hallett v Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust sets a binding precedent in employment law and confirms that the commercial software being used has "underestimated the hard work, long hours and inadequate rest faced by junior doctors, for years".

The Trust has until 9th of August to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.

'Bittersweet Victory'

BMA Junior Doctors Committee Chair Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, commented in a statement: "The doctor supported by the BMA in the case, Dr Sarah Hallett, is not seeking compensation. 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 tr


usts 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."

On Twitter, Dr Hallett said it was a "bittersweet victory".

Check Your Contract

Under the system being used by Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust duty periods had been assessed to be compliant with requirements for natural breaks based on 'expected data' rather than 'recorded data'.

The BMA said trusts and health boards will now have to address known problems in rota designs.

The ruling applies to England and Wales but is likely to have "persuasive authority" in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It is urging junior doctors to check their employment contracts to see if they are affected by the ruling. However, there is a cut off period going back just 6 years.

It will prioritise support for doctors making claims closest to the 2013 cut off period.


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