Junior doctors have begun three days of strike action today (Monday March 13) ahead of a week of walkouts which will include one of the biggest days of industrial action for years.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England have mounted picket lines outside hospitals in the Midlands, including Leicester Royal Infirmary and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Almost 37,000 votes were cast last month and 98% of those voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay.
This was the largest ever turnout for a ballot of doctors by the BMA and a record number of junior doctors voting for industrial action.
Why are junior doctors striking?
The British Medical Association (BMA) is demanding a substantial pay rise for doctors, with its latest campaign saying junior medics could earn more per hour if they worked in Pret A Manger.
The union said junior doctors have suffered a 26% real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09. They are now asking for a 35 per cent pay rise to make up for it.
What does the Government say?
The Department for Health says it has been working with NHS England on contingency plans to help protect patient safety.
In an interview, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "We're working extremely hard with NHS England and with hospital bosses to mitigate the impact of the junior doctor strikes."
"That is why it is important that we engage in meaningful and constructive talks with them. We stand ready to engage with the junior doctors on that in exactly the same way we have with other health juniors."
Striking doctors in Leicester say it is vital to retain staff and protect patients.
Tal Ellenbogen, a junior doctor/BMA spokesperson said: "We are not seeing 26% fewer patients. We are not doing 26% less work. The only thing that is happening is that so many of us are leaving the NHS that we are often having to cover for two, even three, doctors."
"For us, that means burnout on levels never seen before. For patients that means that they are not getting the standard of care that they deserve and that we aspire to deliver."
Elsewhere, similar calls have been made in Birmingham as one of the biggest picket lines started at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at 7 o'clock this morning.
The 72-hour walkout will see operations and appointments cancelled for thousands of patients as doctors join picket lines outside their hospitals.
Junior doctors make up around 45% of the NHS’s medical workforce and consultants and other medics have been drafted in to provide strike cover in areas such as A&E.