The British Medical Association has announced that it has suspended next week’s planned industrial action by junior doctors.

The doctor’s union had been due to strike from 8am on Tuesday 26 January to 8am on Thursday 28 January over the government’s plans to implement a new contract for junior doctors.

During the 48-hour strike action only emergency care would have been provided.

However today the BMA said it had decided to suspend the strike as talks continued between the BMA and the government at the conciliation service Acas.

Johann Malawana, the chair of the junior doctors committee, said in a statement: “The BMA’s aim has always been to deliver a safe, fair junior doctor contract through negotiated agreement.

“Following junior doctors’ clear message to the government during last week’s action, our focus is now on building on early progress made in the current set of talks.

“On this basis, the BMA has today taken the decision to suspend the industrial action planned for 26-28 January, thereby giving trusts as much notice as possible so as to avoid disruption to patients.

He added: “It is important to be clear, however, that differences still exist between the BMA and the government on key areas, including the protection of patient safety and doctor’s working lives, and the recognition of unsocial hours.

“Significant, concrete progress will need to be made if future action, currently planned for 10 February, is to be averted.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The strike that took place last week was unnecessary while talks are ongoing, so it’s extremely welcome news that the BMA has suspended next week’s action, though as it stands emergency care will still be withdrawn in February.

”In the end, the government and junior doctors want to do the same thing by improving patient care at weekends – and we look forward to further constructive discussions.”

The BMA’s action planned for 10 February would include withdrawing labour from emergency care between 8am and 5pm.

Earlier this month the Department of Health announced it had asked Sir David Dalton, Salford Royal Foundation Trust chief executive, to lead negotiations for employers. Sir David spoke exclusively to HSJ about his approach to the dispute.