Junior doctors employed with the UK's National Health Service (NHS), a free health cover provided in England, walked off the work on Tuesday for the first time since 1975 to protest against the Tory government's new contract.

The new contract, which would affect 55,000 junior doctors, requires junior doctors to work longer hours, i.e., 90 instead of 60. Standard wage rate would be applicable during the extended hours instead of increased wages. The contract also expects doctors to work more on the weekends.

Additionally, the government wants to scrap differential pay, which was previously the norm for working on weekends. Junior doctors working only on Sundays would get higher pay. 

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the strike was "totally unnecessary", Mirror reported.

The walkout by the junior doctors stalled 3,300 routine operations including knee and hip procedures. Only emergency services were being provided in England on 12 January.

The months long standoff between the British Medical Association, to which 37,000 NHS doctors are affiliated, and the government has not been able to come to an agreement. 

"We deeply regret the level of disruption caused, but this is a fight for the long-term safety of patients and junior doctors' working lives," Dr Johann Malawana, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors' committee told BBC.

More such strikes are scheduled for 26 January and 10 February. While emergency services will be provided during the January strike, there will be complete shut down in February.

"I sympathize with the junior doctors and totally support their strike. They do one of the most difficult jobs in the country and are not being given a fair deal," Dr Pranshu Trivedi, a senior oral surgeon with NHS working in London, told IBTimes India.

According to the doctors, the new contract will reduce their salaries by 30% and would force them to work longer hours, thus affecting patient safety.

Other bodies affiliated to the BMA also came out in support of the strike while they heavily criticised the  government.

"Threats of legal action against the BMA for calling for solidarity and support for their strike is an outrage. It shows what the Tories' trade union bill, now making its way through the Lords, is all about. Any expression of collective opposition by unions faces the threat of being made illegal," read a letter in support of the NHS doctors, by other healthcare associations, published in The Guardian.