Strike action by junior doctors, that was planned for the next three months, has been suspended by the British Medical Association over patient safety concerns, the union announced over the weekend.
The medical union had planned 15 days of strikes, five in each of October, November and December, including by doctors working in emergency care.
“It is right that we listen and respond to concerns about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service”
The suspension of the planned action is the latest development in the long-running dispute between the BMA and government over the introduction of a new junior doctor contract.
The BMA said in a statement issued on Saturday evening that the decision “follows feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and discussions with NHS England about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service”.
NHS England, along with the government, had said in recent weeks that it believed the proposed action would compromise patients’ safety.
The statement was issued following a meeting of the BMA junior doctors’ committee, which was held earlier on Saturday.
Junior doctors’ strike action called off by BMA
Dr Ellen McCourt, who was elected chair of the committee earlier that day, said in a statement: “In light of feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide ranging debate among junior doctors, the BMA has taken the decision to suspend planned industrial action.
“We still oppose the imposition of the contract and are now planning a range of other actions in order to resist it, but patient safety is doctors’ primary concern and so it is right that we listen and respond to concerns about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service,” she said.
“We hope the government will seize this opportunity to engage with junior doctors and listen to the range of voices from across the NHS raising concerns about doctors’ working lives and the impact of the contract on patient care,” said Dr McCourt.
“For many people this whole dispute has turned on how the NHS will assure quality care over seven days. It has highlighted the need for an open and honest debate,” she added.