Junior doctors have taken to the picket line outside Colchester Hospital this morning. 

The staff are staging a 96 hour walkout in the east of England between Tuesday and April 15.

It is expected to be the most disruptive industrial action in the history of the NHS due to its length and the fact it will take place directly after a Bank Holiday weekend.

The strike will cause chaos at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust’s hospitals in Colchester, Clacton, Harwich and Ipswich.

The medical director of the NHS in Suffolk and north east Essex, Dr Andrew Kelso, is warning that this week’s industrial action by junior doctors will have far greater impact on NHS services than last month’s action.

Dr Kelso said: “While I recognise everyone’s right to strike, this latest action is going to have a significant impact on our patients, coming as it does on the back of an incredibly busy Easter holiday weekend and during a period when the NHS is already under enormous pressure.

“This pressure is not the fault of patients, but at this extremely difficult time I ask people to use our precious NHS resources even more carefully than normal.

"Reduced numbers of staff in hospital emergency departments are needed to treat seriously ill people so please don’t go there unless this is the case.

Gazette: Junior doctors on the picket line outside Colchester HospitalJunior doctors on the picket line outside Colchester Hospital (Image: Newsquest)

"By turning up with a minor illness or injury you’ll be adding to the pressures of an already overburdened service, and that’s not what the NHS needs right now.

“Instead ask for advice from the pharmacy or call or go online to NHS 111, which is available 24/7.

“It’s inevitable too that some operations will be postponed and appointments rearranged, but please don’t call your health provider. They’ll contact you if there’s any change of plans.

“I am deeply sorry that junior doctors have chosen to express their dispute with the government in this way and that patients are having to wait even longer for treatment.

“It’s going to be a very challenging few days, but if everyone does their bit, we can ensure the NHS in Suffolk and north east Essex is able to continue to look after the physical and mental health of local people.”