Hospital Dr News

Trainees take NHS trust to court over “insufficient break times” in foundation years

A test case on the ‘break times’ of junior doctors could have significant implications for the NHS.

A group of trainees is claiming that the Royal Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust did not ensure they had proper breaks.

The High Court heard the staff should get a half-hour break for every four hours they are continuously on duty or be paid double for the time.

NHS lawyers said this could cost the trust £250,000 and open up claims from junior doctors across England.

A group of 21 doctors, headed by Sarah Hallett, claims the NHS failed to honour contracts over an eight-month period in 2013 and 2014 and provided insufficient breaks during their Foundation Year.

John Cavanagh QC, for Dr Hallett, said: “The case concerns the entitlement of junior doctors to take breaks during the course of their working duties.

“This case is of general public importance…it is a test case which is of significance across the NHS.”

He said the primary duty to ensure junior doctors get enough rest lies on the NHS trusts who employ them.

The hearing was told that the case had been brought as a matter of principle, not money.

He said Dr Hallett’s primary objective was patient safety by enforcing trusts to meet their contractual duty to ensure junior doctors are suitably rested.

Dr Hallett is also chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctor Committee.

“Junior doctors who have to work for many hours in very stressful and high-pressure conditions without even a short break will be exhausted and this will potentially lead to risks to patient safety,” the QC added.

The Royal Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s defence is that the case is based on a misinterpretation of junior doctors’ contracts.

A spokesperson for Derby Teaching Hospitals said: “The trust puts patient safety as its top priority. This trial is simply about how Derby Teaching Hospitals monitored junior doctors working hours back in 2013.

“The approach we took mirrors that taken by a significant proportion of NHS trusts up and down the country. No further comment can be made until the conclusion of this test case.”

The hearing is expected to last four days.

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