JUNIOR doctors have walked out of the borough’s hospitals after last-ditch talks yesterday failed to reach an agreement.
Junior doctors - all medics below consultant level - will provide emergency care only from 8am today in the 24-hour walkout.
It is the second day of strike action by the British Medical Association (BMA) in a bitter dispute with the Government over a new contract.
A new survey ahead of the walkout suggested nine in 10 junior doctors could quit if the current contract terms were imposed.
The first strike in January led to thousands of operations, procedures and appointments being cancelled across Lancashire.
The major sticking point in the dispute is over weekend pay and whether Saturday should be largely classed as a normal working day.
Currently, 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and the whole of Saturday and Sunday attract a premium rate of pay for junior doctors.
An offer from the Government in November said doctors would receive time-and-a-half for any hours worked Monday to Sunday between 10pm and 7am, and time-and-a-third for any hours worked between 7pm and 10pm on Saturdays and 7am and 10pm on Sundays.
But in a new offer, dated January 16, ministers said that as part of an overall agreement, a premium rate of pay could kick in from 5pm on Saturdays rather than 7pm.
Furthermore, premium pay could start at 9pm Monday to Friday.
This offer has so far been rejected by the BMA. The Government has strongly suggested it will impose the contract if no agreement can be reached.
It is understood the BMA put forward a proposal that would have seen doctors’ basic pay rise by about half the 11 per cent offered by ministers in return for Saturday not to be treated as a normal working day.
The union argued it would have been cost neutral, meaning the Government would not pay any more than the £5bn currently spent on junior doctor salaries.
But it is thought the Government blocked that deal.