NHS England, the government and the British Medical Association (BMA) are back around the negotiating table on 30 November in a bid to avert strikes by junior doctors throughout December. The medics are planning to protest against planned contract changes.
The BMA, which represents around 30,000 junior doctors, has warned that the work agreements could leave the medics worse off and their longer hours could put patients' safety at risk. But the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has offered the junior doctors an 11% pay hike, argued that the contracts will boost patient safety.
The last ditch talks come after an overwhelming number of the medics (98%) voted in favour of industrial action on 17 November. The decision means tens of thousands of junior doctors plan to only provide emergency care on 1 December and the NHS workers will follow that up with a total walkout from 8am to 5pm GMT on 8 and 16 December.
The parties had "behind the scene" discussions on 29 November ahead of official talks at Acas on 30 November, according to the mitigation service. "Further discussions with the parties are taking place today and Acas conciliation talks will resume on Monday," an Acas spokesperson said.
NHS England has ensured patients that the health service will do "everything possible" to protect their safety. "We will pursue that task with the thoroughness that the public expect. Formal assurance on key safety issues will be required," a spokesperson for NHS England said. "We make absolutely no apology for seeking the certainty that the seriousness of the situation requires."
Army medics could reportedly be drafted in to help across NHS England if the strikes goes ahead.