Junior doctors at Stevenage's Lister Hospital said they have been "driven" to join the five-day strike, calling on the Government to take action over pay.

Young medics at the British Medical Association started the walkout - which is the longest in NHS history - from 7am today, before returning to wards on Tuesday

Junior doctors are fighting for a 35 per cent pay rise, which would restore their pay to that seen of 2008 - with increases since eroded by inflation.

Among those who walked out at Lister was Samik Sofat, a registrar in the hospital's radiology department.

He said junior doctors had been "driven" to strike by the Government, and called on them to come to the negotiating table.

"This is something historic, but we never wanted to be driven to this. Unfortunately, we have been," he told this newspaper.

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"No doctor ever wants to strike as our patients always come first, but we’ve got to the point where with the resources provided by the Government to the NHS, that we are not able to provide the care that we want and need to provide to people.

"Clearly there is a retention crisis. The solution, to us at least, seems clear, and that is our value is not 35 per cent less than it was since 2008, and this needs to be rectified by the Government as soon as possible.

"We’ve had a clear and slow escalation of the strike, but the Government doesn’t want to come to the table.

"We’ve already said that we are going to be striking for a period of time every month until something comes of this, and we’ll stick to that."

In a statement this morning, BMA leaders Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said: "Today marks the start of the longest single walkout by doctors in the NHS's history, but this is still not a record that needs to go into the history books.

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"We can call this strike off today if the UK government will simply follow the example of the government in Scotland and drop their nonsensical precondition of not talking whilst strikes are announced and produce an offer which is credible to the doctors they are speaking with.

"The pay offer on the table to junior doctors in Scotland and how it was reached throws into sharp relief the obstinate approach being taken by the prime minister and the health secretary, Steve Barclay.

"The health secretary has said there can be no talks while strikes are planned - Scotland has proved him wrong. He said above 5% wasn't realistic - Scotland proved him wrong. He refused to even acknowledge the concept of pay restoration - Scotland proved this is not only possible but essential."

Health secretary, Steve Barclay, hit back, saying: "We were in discussions about pay and a range of other measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors until their representatives collapsed the negotiations by announcing further strikes.

"A pay demand of 35 per cent or more is unreasonable and risks fuelling inflation, which makes everyone poorer."