Junior doctors have called off a series of strikes that were set to take place over the next three months after concerns from the British Medical Association (BMA) over patient safety.
Three five-day strikes were scheduled for weeks in October, November and December to protest the imposition of a new contract.
Although the walkouts have now been suspended, the junior doctors committee of the BMA said they were still in dispute over the contract.
Dr Ellen McCourt, chair of the BMA junior doctor committee, said the decision was taken “in light of feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide-ranging debate amongst junior doctors”.
She said: “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.
“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. If the NHS cannot attract and keep those doctors on whose dedication and professional skills it relies, there will be no recognisable health service in England.
“Our fight does not end here. 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 led by the BMA on how this will be achieved.
“We call on our colleagues across the medical profession, other healthcare professionals, and the government and patient groups to engage with junior doctors on this.”
The General Medical Council (GMC) and Health Education England had previously warned junior doctors that striking may jeopardise their training and registration.
Prof Terence Stephenson, chair of the GMC, said suspending the action was “the right decision”.
He said: “We urge the BMA and the government to work together to find a constructive and sustainable solution to this dispute. But the alienation and frustration of doctors in training is deeper and more complex than arguments about pay and conditions and we are keen to work with doctors in training and others to deal with a host of non-contractual issues which must be tackled not just for the benefit of the doctors but also for in the interest of patients.”