NHS consultants and junior doctors will strike together for the first time ever this week.
Doctors in the British Medical Association will walk out of nearly all hospital departments on Wednesday, with most ops cancelled and only “Christmas Day” cover for A&E and wards.
Health chiefs say it will be the worst staff protest they have ever seen.
Consultants start two days of strikes tomorrow, Tuesday.
Junior doctors will follow on Thursday and Friday, as well as Wednesday's “double-whammy”.
Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers which represents hospital bosses, warned on BBC Breakfast: “We are now in uncharted territory.”
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She said: "This is going to have a very worrying impact on services.
"Patients are on the receiving end of this, in terms of the quality of life when their appointments, operations and procedures are rescheduled.
"I think there is a real danger now that this becomes business as usual.
"It has to end before we get fully entrenched in winter."
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Downing Street said on Monday: “These co-ordinated strikes will pose a huge challenge for the NHS and for patients, who will see their care significantly disrupted.”
The BMA is campaigning for a bigger pay rise for doctors after members said the boost given by ministers in the summer was not enough.
The Government is refusing to budge, but its pledge to cut waiting list is being wrecked by the walkouts.
A record 7.7million people in England are now waiting for treatment, with the figure rising by around 100,000 per month.
This week will be the third walkout by consultants and the sixth by junior doctors.
NHS medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “Almost all planned care will come to a stop, and hundreds of thousands of appointments will be postponed.”
Both doctor grades will strike together again on October 2, 3 and 4.
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