Doctors’ strike called off after Hunt lifts threat to impose new contract: Action cancelled at last minute following health secretary’s decision to bow to BMA demand and lift threat to force contract on 45,000 trainee doctors

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Action cancelled at last minute following health secretary’s decision to bow to BMA demand and lift threat to force contract on 45,000 trainee doctors

NHS junior doctors talking in a corridor of the Whittington hospital in London
The agreement followed five days of talks overseen by conciliation service Acas. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

Junior doctors called off three days of planned strikes that would have seriously disrupted NHS services after a last-minute agreement to hold further talks withJeremy Hunt to try and agree the details of a new contract.

The dramatic breakthrough in the increasingly bitter dispute arrived only hours before the first strike was due to begin at 8am on Tuesday, which would have left many hospitals in England offering only the very limited range of services usually seen on Christmas Day.

It came following five days of discussions, overseen by the independent Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), between the British Medical Association (BMA), NHS Employers and Hunt’s Department of Health (DH).

It means that walkouts planned for 1, 8 and 16 December have been called off. The BMA agreed to call off those strikes after the health secretary finally bowed to their repeated request to drop his longstanding demand – albeit temporarily – to impose a punitive new contract on England’s 45,000 junior doctors if agreement was not reached, largely on terms he had dictated. His stance had sparked huge anger among the affected doctors in training, 98% of whom voted for strike action in protest.

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