Tens of thousands of trainee doctors have started a 72-hour strike across England to argue with the government over pay.
Many patients are having surgeries and appointments canceled as the three-day campaign brings with it more widespread disruption NHS.
But supporters of the strike say action is needed to prevent junior doctors leaving the NHS, putting lives at risk.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is urging the government to restore wages as it says wages for junior doctors have fallen by 26% since 2008/09, with newly qualified medics earning less than a barista in a cafe .
An advertising campaign launched by the union reads: “Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 an hour. A junior doctor only earns £14.09.
“Thanks to this government, you can serve more coffee than you save patients. This week junior doctors will be on strike to be paid what they are worth.”
Doctors in training make up around 45% of the NHS medical staff and consultants and other medical professionals have been brought in to provide cover in areas such as A&E.
More than 100,000 patient appointments have already been rescheduled this winter after nurses called in strike in a dispute with the government over pay, according to NHS figures.
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, told Times Radio that cancer care is likely to be affected by the strikes, saying the NHS is “doing everything we can to ensure urgent cancer treatments are delivered, but unfortunately it is some of these may be affected this week”.
Pickets formed outside hospitals across England on the first day of what is arguably the longest-ever strike by junior doctors.
Hamish Bain joined a strike action outside University College Hospital London.
He has been a resident in London for more than five years and has seen colleagues leave the NHS for better paying jobs abroad.
When asked why he decided to stay, he told Sky News: “Because I fundamentally believe in the NHS and believe that everyone should have access to quality healthcare no matter how much money they have.”
“Absolute national scandal”
Professor Philip Banfield, the council leader of the BMA, joined a picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, saying: “It is the Government’s refusal to listen to junior doctors and the crisis in the NHS.
“We are in the worst NHS crisis I have ever seen and it looks like young doctors are leaving in droves.
“The junior doctors’ strike is so sad to see, but they feel compelled to do it.”
He added: “What is going on day by day is patients are dying.
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimates that between 300 and 500 people die needlessly each week due to the state of emergency departments across the UK.
“This is an absolute national scandal.”
“We are not worth 26% less”
Speaking outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, junior doctor Shivam Sharma said: “Junior doctors have faced a massive real pay cut of 26% over the last 15 years.
“We’re not worth 26% less, we’re not doing 26% less work, we’re not seeing 26% fewer patients. In fact, the work has only gotten harder.
“Currently, 50% of junior doctors are struggling to pay rent, mortgage and bills, and 50% have to borrow money from friends and family just to make ends meet.
“So something needs to be done – we need to value the doctors here if we’re going to keep them.”
“We get a ridiculously low wage”
Sumi Manirajan, 29, who works at a London hospital, said she was forced to borrow money from her parents to sit her medical exams.
She said: “Not only are we paid a ridiculously low wage for our work, but we also have to bear the cost of taking our exams and we receive no financial support from the NHS for this.
“Most doctors work at least 48 hours a week, but there are junior doctors who take part-time jobs or stand-in shifts to make ends meet.
“No one decides to become a doctor on the spur of the moment, it takes years of training and preparation.
“I didn’t expect these working conditions when I started my apprenticeship.”
“We’re really struggling to raise the money”
Paul Smith, a first-year surgical trainee at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “I started my apprenticeship in August last year and have spent £3,000 on course fees, honoraria and exams.
“We can reclaim some taxes, but I still have to pay that up front.
“Me and my partner managed to save up enough money to buy a house nearby and we found a hole in the roof last week.
“We’re really struggling right now to find the money to fix that.”
Rebecca Lissman, 29, an obstetrics and gynecology trainee, said, “All young doctors ask for is a salary commensurate with our abilities.”
Speaking to University College Hospital in London, she added: “I still want to work for a service that’s free at the point of use when I’m a fully qualified consultant.
“We want a healthcare service that works for everyone, and that’s why I’m here today.”
The government has been criticized for its handling of wage disputes that have been escalating for months.
Talks between the government and healthcare unions continue this week in hopes of a breakthrough.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “It is very disappointing that the Young Doctors Association does not cooperate with the government.
“We are actually having a constructive dialogue with other unions who have accepted our offer to come in and talk about it.”
If you are an NHS worker and would like to share your experience anonymously with us, please email us NHSstories@sky.uk