Army medics will not be brought in to help during junior doctors strike

Army medics will not be drafted in to cover if a strike by junior doctors goes ahead on Tuesday, the NHS has said.

Doctors are poised to take action on three days over pay and working conditions, providing emergency care only for 24 hours from 8am on Tuesday followed by full walkouts from 8am to 5pm on December 8 and 16.

In its Guide to Safe Picketing for the strike action, the BMA said: "It is likely that our armed forces colleagues will be asked to step in to provide support for clinical services on the days of action.

"The law does not permit them to take part in industrial action, but their support for services during the industrial action is welcome."

However, the NHS notes this is general guidance and the use of army personnel is not being considered during the strike action.

The Ministry of Defence also confirmed that it hadn't been asked to provide cover in the event of the strike.

Junior doctors protesting on Downing Street Credit: PA

Talks to avoid the strikes have so far ended without resolution but Government negotiators will sit down with BMA officials again on Monday.

A strike would cause mass disruption to the NHS, with hospitals forced to cancel outpatient clinics and non-urgent operations.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously refused to agree to discussions unless BMA officials came to the negotiating table first, but changed his mind last week when he told BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter "any talks are better than strikes".

A BMA spokeswoman said: "Strike action is still planned for Tuesday, and talks will carry on on Monday."