The regulator of the doctors profession in England has suggested that plans for an all-out strike next week could cause problems for hospitals.
Junior doctors are due to take part in industrial action which will involve the first ever stoppage of emergency care on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The strike is intended to see medics walk out of A&E, intensive care and maternity units.
Yet the General Medical Council is now critical of the decision to strike in certain geographical regions, suggesting that striking may not be the right option in some parts of the country.
And the health organisation suggested that those intending to take industrial action should also engage in reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that patients under their jurisdiction would indeed be safe.
Although there have been no specific warnings from hospitals, the General Medical Council indicated that the judgement was based on the scale of industrial action reported by the Unite union and British Medical Association.
There has been concern raised by some that smaller hospitals in particular may find it difficult to cope during the stoppages.
The industrial action is taking place once more over contractual provisions that Health Minister Jeremy Hunt wishes to impose on junior doctors.
Both the overwhelming majority of NHS employees and the doctors unions argue that these conditions are detrimental to both employees and patients, and that the government has been intransigent and inflexible over the negotiation process.
Meanwhile, doctors continue to pursue legal action against the imposition of the contract which has already been threatened by the aforementioned Hunt.
There have been four strikes in the contract dispute since the start of the year already, with the two sides unable to reach an amicable solution.
Talks at the conciliation service Acas broke down in January.
Next week’s walkouts will involve all services, although consultants, nurses and midwives will still be working.
This is a unique form of industrial action in the history of the NHS, and has only come from the junior doctors after several rounds of talks proved unproductive and previous bouts of industrial action were largely ignored by the government.
The chief executive of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson, has publicly recognised the levels of anger and frustration among doctors, but equally indicated his determination to remain neutral in the dispute while advising professionals diligently.
“For every doctor affected these are difficult and worrying times and feelings are understandably running high. We know all doctors will want to do their utmost to reduce the risk of harm to patients and this advice is designed to help them achieve that.”
NHS England continues to negotiate with hospitals regarding emergency measures put in place for the planned industrial action dates.