The British Medical Association is stepping up industrial action by junior doctors over the government’s imposition of a new working contract from August this year, including a full-scale walkout next month as relations between the two sides continue to deteriorate.

It claims that the government continues to ignore the union’s concerns about the impact of imposition on morale and the already worsening recruitment and retention crisis in the ranks of junior doctors.

As a result, further dates of industrial action are planned April 6 - 8, during which time only emergency care will be provided, and April 26 and 27, when there will now be a full withdrawal of labour between the house of 8am and 5pm on both days.

“We deeply regret the disruption to patients and our message to patients is clear; this action is wholly avoidable but the government must choose talks over imposition,” said Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chair.

“The rest of the UK has taken a different, constructive path on junior doctors’ contracts with only the Health Secretary in England choosing imposition over talks,” he noted, calling on the government to “put politics to one side, get back around the table and end this dispute through talks.”

But in the response, the Department of Health said in a statement: “This escalation of industrial action by the BMA is both desperate and irresponsible - and will inevitably put patients in harm’s way”.

“If the BMA had agreed to negotiate on Saturday pay, as they promised to do through ACAS in November, we’d have a negotiated agreement by now - instead, we had no choice but to proceed with proposals recommended and supported by NHS leaders”.