JUNIOR doctors are to strike in Devon from 7am tomorrow, affecting the NHS at its busiest time of the year.
The latest strike action comes after a new pay offer put forward in talks with the government was rejected.
The British Medical Association (BMA) union said the proposal was worth an extra 3 per cent on average this year. This is on top of an 8.8per cent rise already given.
The strikes will be for three days from 7am tomorrow until 7am on Saturday December 23.
Further action is planned for six days from 7am on January 3.
The new-year walkout will be the longest in the NHS's history.
It coincides with what is traditionally one of the NHS's busiest periods, with emergency services often under huge strain.
The NHS in the south west says it is facing ‘significant disruption’ to routine care this week due to the industrial action.
Bosses say in the run-up to Christmas an already busy time for the NHS, the strike is expected to have a significant impact as the NHS focuses on ensuring patients needing urgent and emergency care can be treated safely.
This means some routine appointments and operations will be postponed.
Hospitals are contacting people directly should their appointment need to be delayed; therefore, people should continue to attend any appointments as planned if they are not contacted.
Dr Michael Marsh, NHS England South West Medical Director, said: ‘The NHS is always busy during the winter months and in particular over the Christmas and New Year period as staff take a well-earned break to be with family and friends.
‘Add industrial action to that pressure means the NHS has to prioritise urgent and emergency care to ensure people are cared for safely.
‘That does mean having to postpone routine appointment and operations so that staff are freed up to cover for junior doctors.
‘We are asking people to help the NHS by continuing to use 999 in life-threatening emergencies and NHS 111 online for all other health concerns.
‘GP services and pharmacies are also available for patients and can be accessed in the normal way.’
The breakdown in talks comes after five weeks of negotiations during which industrial action had been suspended.
The BMA wants a 35per cent pay uplift, to make up for what it says have been below-inflation rises since 2008.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: ‘These strikes come at a time that will cause huge disruption to the NHS, with services are already feeling the strain of winter pressure.
‘When you factor in the Christmas and New Year break, these strikes will prolong that period of reduced activity and it also puts the health service on the back foot into the new year, which is a time where we see demand start to rise significantly
‘Over the holiday period, I would encourage anyone who needs medical help to continue to come forward - in a life-threatening emergency, call 999 and use A&E in the usual way. For everything else, use 111 online.’