The BMA praised the turnout, which it said showed continued high support for the industrial action against the government’s proposals to impose an 'unfair' contract on the profession.
It added that it ‘deeply regretted’ any disruption caused to patients, but said the government had left junior doctors ‘with no other option’ after months of failed negotiations.
NHS England said that 43% of junior doctors – out of a possible 26,000 on a usual working day – reported for duty on the Wednesday day shift. However, a proportion of these doctors had been rostered in to provide emergency care services, and were not asked to join the strike.
NHS officials estimated last Sunday that around 1,150 inpatient and 1,734 day case procedures had been cancelled as a result of the strike action.
Junior doctor strikes
Dr Johann Malawana, BMA junior doctor committee chairman, said: ‘With thousands of junior doctors attending more than 160 pickets and "meet the doctor" events across England, today’s action is a resounding rejection of the government’s threat to impose an unfair contract, in which junior doctors have no confidence.
‘We deeply regret the disruption caused to patients, but this is a fight for the long-term delivery of high quality patient care, for junior doctors’ working lives and for the ability of the NHS to rise to the enormous challenges facing it.
‘Junior doctors already work around the clock, seven days a week and they do so under their existing contract. If the government want more seven-day services then, quite simply, they need more doctors, nurses and diagnostic staff, and the extra investment needed to deliver it.
‘Rather than addressing these issues, Jeremy Hunt has rejected a fair and affordable proposal put forward by the BMA and is instead ploughing ahead with proposals that could see many junior doctors voting with their feet. That is why today’s action has the support not only of 98% of those junior doctors who voted for it, but the majority of the public, who blame the government for backing junior doctors into a corner, leaving them with no option.’
Dr Anne Rainsberry, national incident director for NHS England, said: ‘It is deeply regrettable that this strike has disrupted care for thousands of patients at the most pressurised time of year and we apologise to anyone affected.
‘It’s a tough day but the NHS is pulling out all the stops, with senior doctors and nurses often stepping in to provide cover. NHS trusts are now working hard to reschedule cancelled tests, appointments and operations as soon as is possible.
‘We will continue to work closely with hospitals and other NHS providers across the country to ensure that contingency plans are in place and that they can safely provide the urgent and emergency services needed.’