Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that the new junior doctors’ contract will be unilaterally imposed has fuelled reports that some doctors will refuse to sign it.
There are also suggestions of further strikes and mass resignations taking place.
The contract, due to be implemented in August, was imposed after negotiations with the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association (BMA), failed to reach an agreement.
The health secretary said he believed the contract would eventually “command the confidence of both the workforce and their employers”.
But the BMA has said the proposals are "fundamentally unfair" and that it will “consider all options”.
“The Government’s shambolic handling of this process from start to finish has totally alienated a generation of junior doctors… and there is a real risk that some will vote with their feet,” said Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA’s junior doctors committee chairman.
“Our message to the Government is clear – 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.”
On Thursday, a 24-hour junior doctors’ strike over the contract - which doctors say will risk patient safety and reduce pay - ended.
One of the key issues is pay for working on Saturdays. At present, doctors receive a premium rate of pay but under the new contract, 7am to 5pm will be regarded as a normal working day.
The government said under the new contract, doctors who work at least one in four Saturdays will get a pay premium of 30 per cent and that basic salary will increase by 13.5 per cent.
Additional reporting by PA