Jeremy Hunt
Health Secretary is facing legal and political fights over his threat to 'impose' a new contract on NHS doctors.Neil Hall/Reuters

The NHS junior doctors' strike scheduled for next week is to go ahead, after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected a last-ditch offer from medics to cancel his controversial new contract. Doctors will now stage a two-day all-in strike – which will include emergency care for the first time – between the hours of 8am-5pm on 26-27 April.

Writing to the Hunt, the British Medical Association (BMA) reiterated that its members did not want to participate in any more industrial action, but insisted that junior doctors could not accept the terms of a contract Jeremy Hunt is attempting to force on them. The BMA has stated that the new contract is not safe for patients.

In the letter, the BMA said its offer to "get back around the table" for direct talks with Hunt himself will remain open "at any time between now and the start of next week's industrial action".

A Department of Health spokesperson told the Independent: "We have today written to the BMA to make clear that it is not credible to call for imposition to be lifted when they refused to negotiate on the one remaining issue of Saturday pay that separates the two sides."

Just over 12,700 operations and around 112,850 other appointments that were due to take place next week have been cancelled as a result of the strike. Other parts of the NHS are set to be called in to help cover the shortfall, especially in emergency care, in a situation that Dr Anne Rainsberry, the national incident director for NHS England, described as "unprecedented".

Dr Rainsberry admitted to Sky News that "in some places the NHS may be under specific pressure".

A spokesperson for the BMA said doctors "deeply regretted" the decision to press on with the strike, but said "they are taking this action because they fundamentally believe the government's plans will be bad for patient care in the long term".

They added: "Crucially, there is still hope this action can be avoided. The BMA has been clear that it will call off next week's action if the health secretary removes the threat of imposition and returns to negotiations."