More than 100 nurses joined a picket line outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital this afternoon amid concerns over pay and patient safety.

Cars tooted and passersby cheered the striking workers on the first day of their 48-hour industrial action.

It was the first time nursing staff from Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust have joined the nationwide walk-out.

The Argus: Ambulances tooted their horns and blared their sirensAmbulances tooted their horns and blared their sirens (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Steve Guy from Sussex Defend The NHS said: "Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS, and we're here to support them."

A junior charge nurse at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, who gave his name only as Tim, scaled the side of the building to attach a flag.

He said: "The nurses are fed up with working under conditions that have got to an absolute crisis point.

"The basic care can't be provided to patients.

"The current conditions of A&E have deteriorated so badly over the last year that anybody coming into the hospital is facing an affront to human dignity.

"The NHS has reached a crisis point. We want fair pay for nurses, but we are also demanding an end to the crisis that is facing the NHS at the moment. 

The Argus: Today is the first day of two consecutive strikes.Today is the first day of two consecutive strikes. (Image: Simon Dack)

George Findlay, chief executive of the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation, said: "My nursing colleagues are amazing, and I support them.

"We want the same thing. We want enough nurses, who feel valued and want to do their job to look after patients.

"I don't set the terms and conditions, that's the nature of it.

"I've got a big job within the trust to make sure they feel valued.

"I've got 20,000 staff at the university hospitals trust and everyone's important to the other. It doesn't matter whether they're a nurse, doctor, cleaner, porter, admin.

"What I want is everybody to be able to come to work and do a good job so that our patients get better care."

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in 55 NHS trusts across the country walked out today calling for a pay rise at five per cent above inflation.

The NHS is reminding patients to attend all their usual appointments unless they have been contacted, and to seek urgent care if needed during the strikes.

NHS England said patients should use services “wisely” by going to NHS 111 online but continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency.

Thousands of operations and appointments are expected to be cancelled during the two days of strike action today and tomorrow.

Almost 30,000 needed to be rescheduled following December’s nurse strikes.

The RCN has agreed to staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care.