Labour City Hall hopeful Sadiq Khan failed to throw his support behind the all-out strike from junior doctors' across England, with a week to go before the historic walkout on 26 April. IBTimes UK asked the front-runner in the Mayor of London election if he backed the British Medical Association (BMA) over the industrial action.
But the Tooting MP, who had just delivered a major speech on his health commitments, decided to dodge the question: "I've not been following the negotiations taking place between the BMA and Jeremy Hunt," Khan said.
"But what I'm quite clear about is – junior doctors work their socks off... What's quite clear is that many healthcare workers work seven days a week and Jeremy Hunt has got himself in a pickle in relation to whether he's going to impose a contract or introduce it.
"What we need is, rather than Jeremy Hunt using junior doctors as a political football, for him to sit around a table and resolve this dispute amicably."
The strike, part of a contract row between NHS England, the government and the BMA, will be the first full-walkout from doctors in the NHS's 68-year history. The General Medical Council (GMC) has warned hospitals will "struggle" if the action goes ahead.
"The GMC cannot second guess the situation facing each doctor in training in England – that must be a matter for individual judgement," the body said in its updated guidance.
"But given the scale and repeated nature of what is proposed, we believe that, despite everyone's best efforts, some hospitals may struggle to cope. In these cases where local circumstances are particularly acute, the right option may be not to take action that results in the withdrawal of services for patients."
Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA's junior doctor committee, has written to Hunt and asked the health secretary for an urgent meeting in a bid to avert the walkout. "Simply put, if the government agrees to lift the imposition, junior doctors will call off next week's action," Malawana promised.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "We have today written to the BMA to make clear that it is not credible to call for imposition to be lifted when they refused to negotiate on the one remaining issue of Saturday pay that separates the two sides.
"More than 500 doctors have already signed up to a new contract that was 90% agreed with the BMA, following 75 meetings and 73 concessions made by the Government."