Mail Online: By Emily Craig — Consultants have taken to picket lines today in their ongoing row with the Government over pay.

The senior medics walked out of hospitals across England at 7am this morning as part of a 48-hour strike and are providing a stripped-back ‘Christmas Day’ level of service — meaning routine appointments and operations are set to be significantly disrupted. 

Junior doctors will then stage a joint strike with consultants tomorrow — for the first time in the health service’s 75 year history — marking an escalation in the dispute.

Striking medics claim their salary has been slashed over the last 15 years but officials say their have already made their final pay offer and patients are at risk. 

Junior doctors will then stage a joint strike with the senior medics tomorrow — for the first time in the health service's 75 year history — marking an escalation in the dispute. Pictured: Consultants pictured on September 19 outside University Hospital Bristol and Weston

Consultants pictured on September 19 outside University Hospital Bristol and Weston

Who is striking this week and when?

Consultants and junior doctors in England are taking industrial action this week, coordinated by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Senior doctors will walk out from 7am today to 7am on Thursday.

This includes 24 hours of joint action with junior doctors from 7am on Wednesday to 7am on Thursday.

The junior medics will take to picket lines from 7am on Wednesday to 7am on Saturday.

What services will be hit? 

Many routine hospital appointments and treatments, including cancer care, have been postponed as a result of both junior doctor and consultant strikes.

Some hospitals have had to halve their normal levels of activity on strike days. 

However, patients have been urged to still attend their appointment if they have not been told it is cancelled — as some doctors are still working.

There will be ‘Christmas Day’ cover throughout hospitals on Tuesday and Wednesday, with emergency units staffed and a basic level of cover on wards. 

On Thursday and Friday — during the junior doctor strike — there will be a ‘full strike’ meaning consultants will be used to provide cover in hospitals.

GP services and pharmacies are expected to operate normally during the strikes, though some junior doctors work at GP surgeries, so some practices may be affected from Wednesday.  

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director at NHS England, said: ‘The NHS has simply never seen this kind of industrial action in its history. It poses an enormous challenge.’ 

Professor Powis urged the public to use NHS ‘wisely’ to ensure care is delivered to those who need it most.

He said to only call 999 or attend A&E for life-threatening emergencies and otherwise contact NHS 111 for non-urgent needs.

Why are they striking?

The BMA argues that junior doctors and consultants have seen their pay be eroded over the last 15 years, meaning it hasn’t kept up with inflation.

As a result, the medics’ pay has fallen by around 35 percent, the union claims.

Junior doctors have called for a full 35 per cent pay uplift, while consultants set their pay demand at 11 per cent. 

For comparison, the Government has offered junior doctors a pay rise between 8.1 and 10.3 per cent, depending on what level they are at.

The average junior doctor in their first year of training will see their salary rise from £29,300 to £32,300, while a medic with three years’ experience will get a boost from £40,200 to £43,900. 

Meanwhile, pay for consultants will increase by six per cent. It means starting basic pay has increased from £88,300 to £93,600. The average consultants’ earnings are expected to be £134,000 a year, after including overtime and on-call payouts. 

Why are health leaders more worried about these strikes? 

NHS bosses have long warned that strikes mean disruption for patients, with nearly 1million appointments and operations cancelled over nine months of walkouts.

For this round of action, health chiefs are warning that increasing numbers of patients who have already had their operation cancelled due to industrial action are having their rescheduled appointments cancelled again.

Consultants walked out of hospitals at 7am this morning as part of a 48-hour strike and are providing a ‘ Christmas Day’ level of service – meaning routine appointments and operations set to be significantly disrupted. Pictured, consultant members of the BMA on the picket line outside University College London hospital in August

This includes a growing numbers of cancer patients. 

NHS Confederation warned that the BMA is now putting ‘more patients at risk than ever’ and describe the situation as ‘dangerous’.

What impact will the strikes have on patients?

Hospitals are reporting that some patients have now had their appointments cancelled up to three times because of strike action.

Health leaders say there is a ‘clear risk’ that the health of some patients will deteriorate the longer they are left to wait. 

While NHS bosses report that around 1million apportionments have been rescheduled because of strikes, the true toll is thought to be much higher. 

This is because hospitals are now routinely not booking in patients for strike days, meaning the true scale of the impact won’t be reflected in the official data.

Is there any end in sight for the NHS strikes? 

The Health Secretary Steve Barclay and the BMA, which is coordinating the consultant and junior doctor strikes, have not met in more than three months.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that they pay offer the Government has granted is fair and final.

But BMA leaders have said they will only call off action if presented with a higher pay uplift and ‘cannot cancel strikes to simply enter talks’.

This suggests that there is no end in sight, with the union warning that without an agreement, strikes will continue into winter.