Junior doctors spoke of their ‘devastation’ at being forced into the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS.
The strike, which continues from 8am until 5pm on Wednesday, is part of a national wave of strikes called by the doctors’ union, the BMA.
It is the third time doctors working in non-emergency departments have walked out of hospitals in protest at the contracts imposed on them by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
But it is the first time their colleagues working in A&E and in on-call emergency teams have joined them.
The mood outside Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley was largely in support of the doctors with passing motorists honking their horns and pedestrians chatting to picketers.
But Huddersfield and Calderdale BMA organiser Dr Pooja Bijoor said she and her colleagues were ‘devastated’ that they’d been pushed into all-out industrial action.
Dr Bijoor, an ENT registrar at HRI, said: “It is unprecedented and we feel completely devastated that it’s come to this.
“We’ve been forced into this specifically by Jeremy Hunt; he had it in his powers to stop this.
“It’s really demoralising and we feel we’re not being listened to.
“All I can say is Jeremy Hunt is being completely pigheaded.
“We watched the debate with Shadow Health Minister Heidi Alexander and other MPs and he doesn’t listen to anyone – he just carries on.
“None of us would be sad to see him resign.”
A&E doctor Charlotte Gunn added: “No-one wanted to strike today but we felt we didn’t have any choice.
“We’re doing this for the long-term safety of our patients.”
And there were similar feelings among those on strike at Calderdale Royal Hospital.
Surgical registrar Dr Rebecca Dawson said: “I desperately want to tell the public that the NHS is about to tip into a point where it can’t be recovered.
“The junior doctor contract is unsafe, and unfair, and just the start of the demoralisation and destruction of the workforce.”
Junior doctor Helen Barclay added: “This contract shows how little the Government understand the difficulties facing the NHS at the moment.”
The BMA has been in a long dispute with Mr Hunt over his contracts which redefine the regular working hours of doctors below consultant grade.
The union says the contracts will lead to an overall pay cuts and doctors working dangerously long shifts.