Army medics may be brought in to help during junior doctors' strike
Last-ditch talks to head off a strike by junior doctors are due to resume, as the British Medical Association (BMA) said Army medics are likely to be drafted in to help if the walkout goes ahead.
Three days of talks have so far ended without resolution, and Government negotiators will sit down with BMA officials again on Monday.
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."
The Department of Health, NHS Employers and the BMA have been involved in negotiations hosted by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), to try to reach agreement ahead of the strike action.
The action 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 on Wednesday 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."
Acas later said their conciliator was having behind-the-scene discussions with the parties today, but that talks will still be taking place tomorrow.
A spokesman said: "Further discussions with the parties are taking place today and Acas conciliation talks will resume on Monday."