Hospitals in England face major disruption as junior doctors have gone on strike in a dispute with the government over a new contract.
In the first walkout of its kind over the past 40 years, the junior doctors are providing only emergency cover during a 24-hour walkout which started Tuesday at 0800 GMT.
The strike which is the first of two planned for the coming weeks, went ahead despite a last-minute plea from Prime Minister David Cameron for doctors to call off the action.
Hospital bosses across the country have had to postpone 4,000 routine treatments, such as knee and hip replacements and cancel appointments, check-ups and tests.
Press TV reports:
55,000 junior doctors are working in Britain, making up a third of the medical workforce. They are qualified medical practitioners who are working while studying for qualifications to take more senior roles.
The strike is over a new type of contract which the government says will improve healthcare at night and at weekends but the doctors say would drastically reduce their pay.
Now the doctors have been urged to return to the negotiating table by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt who described their strike as “completely unnecessary”. Jeremy Hunt thanked those that had ignored advice from the British Medical Association (BMA) and gone to work.
Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to junior doctors to call off what he said was an unnecessary strike which would cause “real difficulties” to the NHS. The Conservative government says the reforms are needed to help create a “seven days a week” NHS where the quality of care is as high at the weekends as on weekdays.
The NHS has so far postponed 4,000 routine treatments due to the strike. A further 48-hour stoppage is due to take place on January 26, while on February 10, there will be a full withdrawal of labour from 0800 GMT to 1700 GMT.
The NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world, providing health care which is largely free at the point of delivery. It is widely respected in Britain, with pollsters YouGov rating it the institution which the most people view positively.