Hospital consultants have failed in their attempt to extend the timeframe for crucial talks on major reforms and efficiencies.

The talks aim to agree significant changes in work practices between consultant unions and the HSE.

The Croke Park Implementation Body today told consultants that HSE management is operating within Croke Park procedures and that the body will not intervene.

It was responding to a letter from Irish Hospital Consultants Association Secretary General Martin Varley.

The HSE has warned consultants that if the talks do not reach final agreement between the two sides directly, they will refer the matter to the Labour Relations Commission under Croke Park procedures, which could eventually result in a binding decision from the Labour Court.

Mr Varley yesterday wrote to the Croke Park Implementation Body, accusing HSE management of refusing to allow sufficient time to negotiate complex and difficult issues.

Those issues include changes in rosters and work schedules as an alternative to pay cuts that were set out under the Programme for Government.

Management also wants to address the fact that several hundred consultants are entitled to historic leave, which would give them their final year off on full pay in lieu of overtime incurred many years earlier in their careers.

In some cases, the consultants work as their own locum for the final year and are effectively paid twice.

The consultants wanted the period of talks extended for six weeks, not including the summer holiday period.

Outgoing HSE Chief Executive Cathal Magee last week described negotiations with the consultants as disappointing and said progress was slow.