England's junior doctors began a 48-hour walkout on Wednesday (March 9) following the imposition of a new contract by the British health minister in February.

The government wants to introduce changes in the way doctors are being paid.

The main sticking point is over weekend pay and whether Saturdays should be classed as normal working days. Junior doctors are currently paid a premium at weekend.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament last month that he would force through the contract from August, after accusing the doctor's union, the British Medical Association (BMA), of being unwilling to compromise in negotiations.

Doctor Holly Cooper, a junior doctor and a singer in the National Health Service choir which joined the picket line in south London's St. George's Hospital said the contractual dispute is demoralizing for doctors and held Hunt responsible.

"It's a very stressful job, high intensity and to have the government, particularly our secretary of state for health telling us that we're not listening to you, you're saying that the contract isn't suitable and it's not what you want, but I'm just going to impose it anyway. That's only going to demoralize us further," Cooper said.

The junior doctors, or doctors in training who represent just over half of all doctors in the National Health Service (NHS), held one-day strikes in January and February, the likes of which had not been seen in Britain for 40 years.

During the strikes, junior doctors provided only emergency care.

More than 5,000 operations have been cancelled due to the strike.

BMA says the contract does not provide proper safeguards against doctors working dangerously long hours.

The dispute has brought Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative government into conflict with doctors who work in the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), which delivers free care for all and is typically one of the most important issues for voters at elections.

Although it has been shielded from the brunt of a government austerity drive, alarm bells are now ringing about whether the NHS is adequately funded to maintain high standards.

The NHS budget has been frozen in real terms for the past five years, an exemption from harsh spending cuts suffered by most other public services since the Conservative-led coalition came to power in 2010 vowing to bring down Britain's huge deficit.

The reforms apply only to the NHS in England. The regional governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have direct responsibility for their own health services.

"There are chronic shortages of doctors and nurses, and this contract is going to spread us even more thinly over seven days and it will definitely exacerbate those problems and it will also make people leave the country," said Dr Sophie Herbert.

"In my entire time as a doctor, I have never heard so many people say that they are considering either leaving the profession completely or at least leaving the country and going to work somewhere else; Either Scotland, Wales or going as far as Australia, New Zealand. This is something that is really impacting on the whole profession at large," said core surgical trainee Dr Alex Trevatt who has been working in the profession for more than two years.

Further strikes are planned in April, if the dispute between the government and the union continues.