Around eight out of ten junior doctors took part in today’s strike action or were otherwise absent in it, preliminary figure suggest.
NHS England, the public body which manages the health service, says 78 per cent of doctors did not turn up to work.
The earliest data available “indicates that 78 per cent (21,608) of junior doctors who were expected to be working have not reported for duty today”, the oragnisation said.
It however caveated the figures, noting that this “includes other forms of absence, such as sickness, not just industrial action”.
98 per cent of doctors voted in favour of strike action on a turnout of over 70 per cent – meaning a higher proportion of total junior doctors appears to have taken part in the strike than voted for it.
The figures come after David Cameron told ITV News it was “not right” for junior doctors to go on strike, and Jeremy Hunt said doctors would be responsible for any patient deaths.
The Health Secretary showed no signs of conciliatory language, describing the strike “very, very bleak day for the NHS” as junior doctors walked out of emergency rooms for the first time in NHS history.
Mr Hunt has said he will unilaterally introduce a new contract for junior doctors. The medics say the policy will put patient safety at risk by incentivising unsafe shift patterns.
The Health Secretary says the contract will help improve NHS care at weekends. Both Mr Hunt’s proposals and those of the British Medical Association are cost-neutral.
Today’s strike is the first all-out stoppage to include emergency medical care – previous strikes have left A&E rooms in place.
The BMA stressed yesterday that emergency care would still be available – but provided by senior doctors.
Junior doctors walked off the job at 8am this morning and returned at 5pm in the evening. They will do the same on Wednesday.
Polling released by Ipsos MORI this morning suggests public support for the doctors remains high.
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