The Minister for Health has said she hopes the Labour Court proposals on working hours for doctors will be accepted by the Irish Medical Organisation.

Mary Harney said the proposals will provide doctors at appropriate times in hospitals rather than during a standard nine to five.

She said the health service needs doctors 24-hours a day seven days a week.

'The Labour Court recommendation in the current challenging economic times are appropriate and agreed following arguments from both sides,' said Ms Harney.

She said the IMO acknowledges the need for change and she said she is hopeful of a positive outcome from the meeting the organisation is holding today.

Commenting on the proposed colorectal screening programme, the minister said it was a priority and an important step in cancer care in Ireland. It is essential that the programme is introduced as early as possible, Ms Harney added.

She said she is optimistic that HIQA can come up with an innovative way of delivering the programme as quickly as possible.

Yesterday, the National Cancer Screening Service proposed the programme which could reduce deaths from colorectal cancer by more than a third.

Ms Harney said delivering the programme within existing budgets is achievable; she said the cancer control programme is an example of how this can happen.

The minister said Prof Tom Keane was delivering the cancer control programme with very little additional budgets and its work is a model for other areas.