Hospital doctors in England on Thursday staged the biggest walkout in the history of the UK’s state-funded National Health Service, prompting fears for patient safety.

The unprecedented five-day stoppage over pay and staff retention is the latest in eight months of industrial action across the NHS, which is already reeling from a vast pandemic backlog.

Nurses, ambulance staff and other medical workers have all joined picket lines in recent months, adding to pressures on patient appointments.

The industrial action by junior doctors those below consultant level will run until 7:00 am on Tuesday.

It comes against a background of walk-outs across the economy from train drivers to lawyers over the past year as the UK battles a crippling cost-of-living crisis.

Senior hospital doctors, known as consultants, in England will also begin a 48-hour strike on July 20, with radiographers following suit from July 25.