Doctors are waiting to hear whether the Government will enter talks facilitated by the conciliation service Acas in a bid to end the bitter dispute over junior doctors’ pay.
Acas said it is “well prepared and ready to help” as the British Medical Association (BMA) urged ministers to get round the table to try to break the deadlock between the parties.
It comes as around 47,000 junior doctors enter the third day of strike action in England.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters in Belfast he wanted to find a “reasonable compromise” with junior doctors.
“The BMA has no preconditions to talks and has consistently sought to negotiate with the Government.
“It takes both sides of a dispute to want to find a solution and we urge the Health Secretary to show the same willingness that we have and make himself available and open to talks facilitated by Acas.”
Hospital bosses have expressed concern about keeping patients safe as they struggle to secure cover for overnight junior doctor shifts during strikes.
And the health service’s top doctor, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, also warned on Tuesday that the situation in the NHS will “become more challenging each day this strike progresses”.
This means that hundreds of thousands of appointments and operations have been rescheduled as a result.
The BMA has claimed junior doctors in England have seen a 26% real-terms pay cut since 2008/09 because pay rises have been below inflation.
The union has asked for a full pay restoration that the Government said would amount to a 35% pay rise – which ministers have said is unaffordable.
BMA officials said the pay issue is making it harder to recruit and retain junior doctors, with members previously walking out for three days in March.