Non-consultant hospital doctors have launched a campaign to reduce what they say are dangerously long working hours.

The doctors are members of the Irish Medical Organisation and will be balloted next month on possible industrial action.

The "24 No More - Enough is Enough" campaign is supported by 2,000 NCHDs.

Under European law, NCHDs should not be working longer than 48 hours a week, but some exceed 100 hours.

The IMO says that the long hours are leading to a recruitment crisis in some hospitals and is forcing many young doctors to emigrate rather than work in the country.

IMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Eric Young said patients are in danger as NCHDs are forced to work shifts in excess of 24 hours, often 36-hour continuous shifts.

The HSE says hospitals are taking action to ensure NCHDs have a maximum working week of 68 hours and a maximum on-call of 24 hours.

Electronic time recording and rostering systems are being put in place to monitor compliance.

Minister for Health James Reilly has indicated to the European Commission that it is committed to the full implementation of the European working time directive for NCHDs by the end of 2014.

The IMO said that strike action would be a last resort to reduce long working hours.

It said that any action by its NCHDs would be designed to have minimal impact on patients.

The first action would most likely be short stoppages, affecting elective operations.

A ballot of NCHDs will start on 8 August and will take some weeks.