The British Medical Association has called off next week’s planned industrial action by junior doctors following “early progress” in conciliatory talks with the government over its plans for the new working contract.

Following a nation-wide walk-out earlier this month, junior doctors were gearing up for a two-day stint on picket lines next week in protest over ‘unfair’ and ‘unsafe’ conditions being proposed by the government, but the BMA said “the focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks”.

Commenting on the development, the Department of Health said: “The strike that took place last week was unnecessary while talks are ongoing, so it’s extremely welcome news that the BMA has suspended next week’s action, though as it stands emergency care will still be withdrawn in February”. 

“In the end, the government and junior doctors want to do the same thing by improving patient care at weekends - and we look forward to further constructive discussions”.

However, BMA junior doctor committee chair, Johann Malawana, did stress that differences still exist between the two sides, “including the protection of patient safety and doctor’s working lives and the recognition of unsocial hours”, and also warned that “significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted”.

Aside from taking issue with the government’s stance that it would impose a new contract if necessary, doctors are also against plans to curb unsociable hours pay which, they say, could cut some salaries by as much 30% despite an 11% rise in basic pay. Also, they are opposed to the removal of financial penalties for trusts ‘over-working’ their junior doctors and dilution of other safeguards that protect doctors and patients.