Scores of junior doctors formed picket lines outside Lancashire hospitals today as part of a national strike.
They gathered at Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley And South Ribble Hospital in a bitter dispute with the government over a new contract.
Sixty doctors in Preston and 20 in Chorley carried placards as motorists beeped their car horns to show support and people even took along food and drinks for the doctors.
It is the fifth strike by junior doctors and the first time in this country that doctors have staged a full walk-out - they provided emergency care cover in previous strikes.
They will continue to strike today and tomorrow, withdrawing labour between 8am and 5pm.
On the picket line at Royal Preston Hospital, junior doctor Emmie Heselden said: “I think that if the new contracts do come in, it will be very unsafe for patients and very unfair for doctors.
“You are trying to spread five days worth of people over seven days. There are already gaps in the rota and these gaps will become bigger.”
Rachel Morgan said: “What is being done to the NHS through us is pretty poor. There is a feeling that although it’s been in the media that it’s all about pay, it’s actually about what is safe and appropriate and fair.”
Francis Pilkington said: “We are striking because we don’t feel it’s fair or safe for patients. We are already stretched over a five-day service and the new rotas to stretch over seven days have not been validated.”
Fraser McNiven, who works in emergency medicine, said: “This is the first time I have been able to strike. I’m not happy that I am here, I don’t want to be, but at the same time I don’t want to work in an NHS that’s putting patients at risk.”
Lauren Murphy said: “We are here because the contracts imposition is unfair for patients, it’s unfair for doctors and this is the our last resort.”
Procedures and operations were postponed after the walk-out was agreed by the British Medical Association.
Suzanne Hargreaves, operations director of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have planned for this action and doctors, nurses and clinical staff will be focusing on caring for patients in our hospitals, and providing emergency treatment.
“We have done everything we can to minimise disruption for patients and make sure we can provide safe and effective care during industrial action.”