Hospitals across England are facing major disruption with the cancellation of thousands of operations, despite a 24-hour strike by junior doctors being called off.

The British Medical Association agreed to suspend the walk-out following a last-minute breakthrough in talks. But the surprise move came much too late for hospitals. In preparation for the threatened strike more than 4,000 patients have had their treatment delayed. Other walk outs planned for later in December have also been suspended in light of the positive developments at the negotiating table.

The move was announced after an outline agreement was reached between the BMA and the government following talks at conciliation service Acas.

Junior doctors have been demanding that changes be made to a new contract for months. The original document seemed to suggest that junior medics would be forced to work longer hours for less pay.

The decision to suspend the strikes only came on Monday night – just hours before the first walk-out was due to begin at 08:00 on Tuesday.