Junior doctors have gathered outside Watford General Hospital this morning amid the latest strike.

They argue the proposed contract changes will endanger patients.

David Gaunt, divisional director for unscheduled care at Watford General Hospital, also revealed he is supporting the junior doctors, adding the contract changes would damage hospital services.

But senior doctors have insisted patients will be safe today despite it being the first time services such as A&E, maternity and intensive care have been hit in the dispute.

Mr Gaunt told the Observer: “I am very supportive of the junior doctors. I do not believe the way government is doing this is the right way. Junior doctors need all the support they can get.

“I want a healthy NHS and I do not think this is the way to achieve that.”

On Sunday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected suggestions of trialling the new contract, and insisted he would impose it.

The British Medical Association said they would call off the strike if the health secretary said would re-enter talks with the union.

One junior doctor, Rebecca Morris, said: “We have had a larger turnout and lots of support from people passing by.

“We have worked very hard to ensure there is consultant cover, especially for emergency cover and we have done everything we can to ensure there is a safe service.”

Ms Morris does not believe junior doctors walking out of the A&E department would change the public perception of the strike.

She added: “It should not make a difference to the delivery of care because there are still doctors delivering care.”

One senior doctor within Watford’s A&E department, who asked not to be named, said: “I am supporting the junior doctors because it is important there is discussion and resolution by talking, rather than the new contract being imposed.

“The biggest danger is the way the new contract would work. It would force junior doctors to work irregular shifts, so day to night, then night to day before returning to night work again.

“They will be tired and therefore less effective and there is the potential for mistakes and danger to patients.”

The senior doctor added: “We have had a big reduction in the number of patients attending, so it is running smoothly at the moment.”

Asked if the department could cope if more patients arrived today, the doctor said: “We will cope. There are enough senior nurses, senior doctors and consultants.

“We will cope and patients will be safe and seen by a doctor. We assured the junior doctors of this.”

The BMA says the Government’s proposals will reduce safeguards on the number of hours junior doctors can work, abolish increased pay for unsociable hours and cut pay for A&E staff.

Another junior doctor, Sekhar Das, says colleagues are moving to Canada, Australia and New Zealand in search of better working conditions.

He said: “We are already stretched. I think if you stretch the elective services over seven days, it will be unsafe.

“It is going to end in a disaster. Patients will not have the right care in time.”