Junior doctor strike action which was planned for the next three months has been suspended, the British Medical Association announced this evening. 

The union had planned 15 days of strikes, five in each of October, November and December, including by doctors working in emergency care.

It is the latest development in a long running dispute between the BMA and government over the introduction of a new junior doctor contract.

The BMA said in a statement this evening that the decision “follows feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and discussions with NHS England about the ability of the NHS to maintain a safe service”.

NHS England, along with the government, had said in recent weeks that it believed the proposed action would compromise patients’ safety.

A meeting of the BMA junior doctors committee was held today.

Ellen McCourt, who was elected chair of that committee earlier today, said in a statement: “In light of feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide ranging debate amongst junior doctors, the BMA has taken the decision to suspend planned industrial action.

“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.”