Minister for Health James Reilly has said he is more interested in increased productivity from consultants than cutting their pay.

Dr Reilly said that consultants need to do more and be available at weekends for example, to discharge patients and to interpret diagnostics.

The minister said that many consultants already made themselves available at weekends.

Minister Reilly said that there might be a “warm political feel” to cutting €50m off consultants' pay but said this would not deliver greater productivity.

He was responding to reported comments in the media today by former HSE human resources chief, Sean McGrath.

Mr McGrath suggested that senior doctors should have their working week raised to 43 hours and that consultants should have private work restricted to outside their core working hours or to weekends.

Mr McGrath also said that up to 500 consultants were earning over €200,000 a year.