The British government says it will force through pay and working condition reforms for English doctors without the agreement of their trade union in a push to end a dispute that has resulted in strikes.
British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement on Thursday (local time), shortly after the second in a series of 24-hour strikes, the like of which had not been seen in Britain for 40 years.
During the strikes, junior doctors, or doctors-in-training, provided only emergency care.
Hunt said the government would have preferred a negotiated solution and accused the doctor's union, the British Medical Association (BMA), of being unwilling to compromise.
"In such a situation, any government must do what is right for both patients and doctors," Hunt said in parliament.
He said the decision to impose the changes on doctors was taken on the advice of senior health service officials.
The dispute has brought British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government into conflict with doctors who work in the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which delivers free care for all and is typically one of the most important issues for voters at elections.
The BMA, which has argued that the changes do not provide proper safeguards against doctors working dangerously long hours, responded by saying it would seek new ways to fight the reforms.
"Junior doctors cannot and will not accept a contract that is bad for the future of patient care, the profession and the NHS as a whole, and we will consider all options open to us," said Johann Malawana, the BMA's junior doctor committee chairman.
The new contract is part of moves by the government to deliver what it says will be a consistent service seven days a week.
Junior doctors represent just over half of all doctors in the NHS. The new deal gives them a pay rise, but some anti-social hours for which they are currently paid a premium would be considered to be standard.
The reforms apply only to the NHS in England.