IN PICTURES: Junior doctors picket outside Wigan Infirmary as 72-hour strike begins

Wigan’s junior doctors have downed their stethoscopes and scalpels to join a national strike.

Staff from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust formed a picket line outside Wigan Infirmary on Monday morning as they began a 72-hour walkout.

They carried placards and waved flags, with many passing drivers beeping their car horns to show their support.

Dr Grace Allport said: “We are here today at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary and we are picketing for restoration of our pay. So since 2008 junior doctors have lost 28 per cent of their pay, compared to inflation, and we are out here today to ask for pay rises to restore our pay to 2008 levels.”

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) have walked out of hospitals across the country and will not return to work until 7am on Thursday.

The union launched an advertising campaign which said junior doctors could earn more money “serving coffee than saving patients”.

Members of several trade unions will strike on Wednesday as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt presents his spring budget, in what will be one of the biggest single days of industrial action for years.

Rallies and demonstrations will be held across the country, including in Wigan town centre on Thursday.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is incredibly disappointing the British Medical Association has declined my offer to enter formal pay negotiations on the condition strikes are paused.

“I hugely value the hard work of junior doctors and urge unions to come to the negotiating table and cancel strikes which risk patient safety and impact efforts to tackle the backlog. I want to find a fair settlement which recognises the crucial role of junior doctors and the wider economic pressures facing the UK.

“I’ve been having constructive and meaningful talks with unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and other non-medical staff, which have agreed to pause strike action, and negotiations will continue this week.

“We have been working closely with NHS England on contingency plans to help protect patient safety during strikes, prioritising emergency, urgent and critical care – but there will inevitably be some disruption for patients.”