Jeremy Hunt acted lawfully when he imposed a new contract on junior doctors, a High Court judge has ruled. The health secretary announced in July he would force through the new deal from October, even though 58% of British Medical Association (BMA) members voted against it.

The government claims the proposal will reduce the maximum hours junior doctors can be asked to work, makes sure the hours asked are safe and that it helps makes shifts more child and family-friendly. It also changes the way they are paid.

But doctors shot down the offer and took their dispute all the way to the High Court and, under the company name "Justice for Health", faced the Department of Health on Wednesday.

However, they were left disappointed when the judge ruled the decision adopted by Hunt "fell squarely within the scope of his lawful powers".

Mr Justice Green went on to say Hunt did not mislead Parliament when he announced the change in the House of Commons and that the health secretary was "entitled" to believe the changes would make "material, contribution to the problem of increased mortality rates" at the weekend.

Responding to the verdict, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We must now move on from this dispute to the crucial job of making sure patients get the same high standards of urgent and emergency care every day of the week, which involves more than the junior doctors' contract.

"We urge the BMA to remove all threat of further industrial action so we can work constructively with junior doctors to address their wider concerns and better recognise their vital importance to the NHS."