Crunch talks will be held between the British Medical Association (BMA) and the government in a bid to avert a historic strikes from NHS England junior doctors over January and February. The discussions will be at mitigation service Acas on 8 January after the BMA, which represents around 30,000 of the medics, announced its members would walkout in a contract dispute.
The BMA and the Department of Health confirmed their attendance to IBTimes UK and a spokesperson for Acas said: "We have invited the sides involved in the junior doctors' dispute for Acas talks this Friday. Talks are expected to start at 10am."
Talks at the mitigation service during December were able to suspend strike action from the junior doctors and the government will hope to achieve a similar result this time around. But the medics have maintained that they are unhappy with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's plan to introduce new work agreements.
The BMA have argued that the proposed contracts could be more dangerous to patients and leave the medics worse off, even after the government promised to hike their pay by 11% in a bid to resolve the dispute.
But after private talks between the parties failed, the BMA announced that medics will only provide emergency care from 8am (GMT) on 12 January to 8am on 13 January (24 hours), and between 8am on 26 January to 8am on 28 January (48 hours).
The actions will be followed by a full walkout on 10 February when the junior doctors strike between 8am and 5pm.
Mark Porter, the council chair of the BMA, said: "After weeks of further negotiations, it is clear that the government is still not taking junior doctors' concerns seriously.
"We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option. It is because the government's proposals would be bad for patient care as well as junior doctors in the long term that we are taking this stand."
Hunt added: "Our absolute priority is patient safety and making sure that the NHS delivers high-quality care seven days a week – and we know that's what doctors want too, so it is extremely disappointing that the BMA have chosen to take industrial action which helps no-one.
"We had made good progress in talks, resolving 15 of the 16 issues put forward by the union – everything apart from weekend pay."