A report from the Department of Health has said that variations in the rates of public pay for newly-appointed hospital consultants and their established peers are a barrier to recruiting and retaining these specialists.

It calls for urgent talks involving the Health Service Executive, the department, medical unions and the Labour Relations Commission, on the consultant career structure and various rates of pay and for the issues to be dealt with by July.

In October 2012, the Government cut the pay for newly-appointed hospital consultants by 30%, resulting in a new entrant pay level of €116,000 for a consultant committed full-time to the public system.

Earlier this year, the Government decided that serving consultants in Ireland moving to new public posts would not be subject to the 30% pay cut.

However, the issue of pay for new appointees remains, including established consultants overseas wishing to come to work in Ireland.

The report also says that an appointment as a consultant should be considered a key step in a medical career, with further opportunities for advancement, rather than viewed as an end-point in itself.

The talks it proposes would also look at a more modernised consultant career structure, involving a consultant-provided service (as opposed to a consultant-led service), clinical leadership and management, as well as research, training and academic roles.

The report also says more family-friendly and flexible working should be established.

It calls for more centralised and co-ordinated workforce planning and better matching of new posts to service requirements and existing trainee capacity.

There are around 2,670 hospital consultants in Ireland.

The report says that the medical workforce is an internationally mobile one and, given the quality of Irish medical training and the global shortage of doctors, other countries are actively seeking to attract Irish medical graduates.

In its final report in June 2014, the department's 'Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structures Working Group' will further examine the recruitment and retention of doctors and will make more recommendations.