The planned strike by junior doctors in England has been postponed, although significant disruption has already been guaranteed by the cancellation of operations.
Following an eleventh hour breakthrough in talks, the British Medical Association agreed to cancel the walkout.
Despite this last-minute decision, over 4,000 patients have already been told that treatment due for tomorrow will be cancelled.
Further walkouts scheduled for later in December have also been suspended for the time being.
The decision of the British Medical Association follows a preliminary agreement between the two sides following assistance from ACAS.
News of the decision to suspend the strikes only came on Monday night; just hours before the first walk-out was due to begin at 8am on Tuesday.
Both sides in the dispute will now spend the next few weeks combing the agreement in order to assess the fine detail.
However, a joint statement which has been distributed by ACAS makes it clear that this is only a temporary situation.
The British Medical Association has until 13th January to reinstate industrial action should the next round of talks prove to be unsuccessful.
Figures acquired ahead of the proposed strike indicate that around 15 per cent of operations have been cancelled as a result of the planned industrial action.
Commenting on at the last minute cancellation of the strike, Dr Barbara Hakin, of NHS England, described the breakthrough as “pleasing”.
“This is in the best interests of patients although we can only apologise for the disruption caused to anyone who has already had their operations cancelled for tomorrow,” Hakin stated.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had spoken to the House of Commons earlier in the day, and assured MPs that every effort will be made to minimise the effects of the strike on the functioning of the health service.
Hunt told the assembled MPs that changes to the contracts of the junior doctors were necessary owing to “the unintended consequence of making it too hard for hospitals to roster urgent and emergency care evenly across seven days”.
The Health Secretary also claimed that the plans would be good for junior doctors. “Our plans are deliberately intended to be good for doctors – they will see more generous rates for weekend work than those offered to police officers, fire officers and pilots,” Hunt added.
Meanwhile, as the British Medical Association assesses its position on the subject, it continues to argue that the changes proposed by the Health Secretary will compromise patient safety.
Some doctors had also claimed that they will lose as much as 30 per cent of their earnings as a result of the proposed contracts.