PICTURES: Junior doctors begin four days of strike action on picket line outside Wigan Infirmary

Junior doctors have walked out of hospitals in Wigan and across the country as they begin four days of strike action.

Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) started industrial action at 6.59am on Tuesday and will not return to work for 96 hours.

It is the latest phase in the ongoing pay dispute with the Government and is expected to cause more than 175,000 surgeries and procedures nationwide to be rescheduled.

The BMA is asking for a 35 per cent pay rise, which it says would reverse the real-terms pay cuts junior doctors have experienced in recent years.

But Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay described this as “unreasonable” and said negotiations could resume “if the BMA is willing to move significantly from this position and cancel strikes”.

Prof Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, has warned the junior doctors’ strike will cause “unparalleled” disruption in the NHS.

Speaking on behalf of all acute medical directors for NHS Greater Manchester, Dr Francis Andrews, consultant in emergency medicine and medical director in Bolton, said: “Junior doctors are a valued and essential part of our NHS workforce. We know what an important role they play across services in Greater Manchester as they care for patients and progress in their medical careers.

“During this time our priorities remain the same – to ensure patient safety and that people know where they can go to get the right healthcare during strikes.

“As always, we want to reassure the public that they must come forward if they need urgent medical care, especially in emergency and life-threatening cases – when someone is seriously ill or injured, or their life is at risk.

“Whilst we are doing our best to minimise disruption, we hope that people will support us by using NHS 111 Online and their local pharmacy as their first port of call for health needs. Only using 999 or the emergency department (A&E) if it’s life-threatening.

“Services across the whole healthcare system are expected to be impacted by the junior doctor strike, but our message to the public is to please continue to attend your appointments unless you are contacted and told otherwise. The NHS will contact you if your appointment needs to be rescheduled due to strike action.”

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