Striking junior doctors have been picketing outside Hinchingbrooke Hospital as part of a 48-hour walkout over Government proposals to change the terms of their contracts.

The national action has meant more than 5,000 operations and procedures across England have been cancelled, but Hinchingbrooke has confirmed that it was able to run urgent and emergency services "as usual" during the industrial action which began at 8am on Wednesday (March 9).

In a statement, the hospital said: "Patients who needed urgent and emergency services have been cared for as usual, but due to increased pressures over this period other patients may have waited longer than normal. In all cases, priority was given to people with the most urgent health needs. However, we had to rearrange six inpatient procedures and 24 outpatients' appointments.

"We have encouraged people with less urgent conditions to consider other options - such as visiting a pharmacist or GP, calling NHS 111, or using NHS Choices to find advice about treating themselves.

The 48-hour walkout represents an escalation of the dispute between the British Medical Association, the union representing junior doctors, and health secretary, Jeremy Hunt. The two sides have so far failed to reached a resolution and the main sticking point is whether junior doctors should receive unsocial payments for weekends.

Dr Sarah Scott, a junior doctor at Hinchingbrooke, told The Hunts Post: "Of course we hope the last two days' strike action will have an impact. The bottom line is that we oppose the contract imposition."

Johann Malawana, the BMA's junior doctor chairman, said: "We deeply regret disruption to patients and have given trusts as much notice as possible to plan ahead, but the Government has left junior doctors with no choice.

"Ministers have made it clear they intend to impose a contract that is unfair on junior doctors and could undermine the delivery of patient care in the long term."

Two further 48-hour strikes are planned for April 6/7 and April 26/27.