The British Medical Association has called off this month's planned five-day strike by junior doctors after NHS chiefs warned the service does not have enough time to prepare for it.

In a statement, the trade union said it had been informed by NHS England - for the first time during the long-running dispute - that the NHS is under such pressure that it cannot cope with the notice period given for the industrial action.

"Our hospitals are chronically under staffed. Our NHS is desperately underfunded. We have to listen to our colleagues when they tell us that they need more time to keep patients safe," it stressed.

However, the remaining programme of action in protest over the new working contract will go ahead as planned at this stage, starting from October 5, the BMA confirmed.

"This does not absolve the Secretary of State. He continues to ignore our request to stop the imposition. He continues to force upon junior doctors a contract that discriminates against carers, parents, doctors with disabilities and women, a contract that devalues our time and a contract that disincentives careers in our most struggling specialties. He continues to strive towards an uncosted, unfunded, unstaffed extended seven day service. He continues to disregard the concerns junior doctors have about staffing shortages and patient safety," it said.

"Future action is, however, still avoidable. The BMA has repeatedly said that it will call off further action if the Secretary of State stops his imposition of the contract, listen to the concerns of junior doctors, and works with us to negotiate a contract, based upon fresh agreed principles, that has the confidence of junior doctors."

"This stalemate between the government and junior doctors is crushing the morale of the very people on whom the future of the NHS depends - at a time when the health service is under resourced, under staffed and overstretched. We need an end to this situation once and for all," Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, recently noted.

But she also said that the RCGP has not signed up to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges' statement on junior doctors - which basically called for an end to both strike action and the imposition of the contract - stressing that the College "will continue to support our junior doctors at this distressing time."

Just yesterday the General Medical Council urged junior doctors considering industrial action to "pause and consider the possible implications for patients," particularly the cumulative impact posed by the withdrawal of emergency cover and removing all doctors in training every day for five days every month.

"We are extremely concerned about the impact which this prolonged campaign of industrial action will have on patients' care and on the public's trust in doctors," the regulator said.