Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said that new consultant pay proposals are "very good by anyone's reckoning".

He said the proposals had been accepted by the Health Service Executive and would allow consultants to earn €175,000 at the top of their salary scale, which was comparable to salaries in other English-speaking countries. 

Mr Varadkar said there were a large number of vacant consultant posts across the health service and this is impacting on waiting times and patient care.

He said he hoped that the Irish Medical Organisation will recognise this and back the proposals.

Talks between the IMO and the HSE on the pay scales of new hospital consultants at the Labour Relations Commission ended without agreement last night.

The talks had been under way for several weeks.   

The current talks process follows a 30% cut in the pay scales of new hospital consultants two years ago. 

The new pay scales prompted concern that highly-qualified consultants are leaving Ireland to get work elsewhere. 

Under proposals from the LRC, the lowest paid consultants would now get a starting salary of €105,000, and the highest paid would start at €127,000, going up to €175,000 after about 12 years.

HSE National Director of Human Resources Barry O'Brien said the HSE would now proceed with the recruitment of new consultants.

In a statement, the HSE said the posts will be based on the new pay scale proposed by the LRC which comes into effect from 1 September. 

It says the LRC proposals give full regard to the relevant experience of doctors returning from abroad or currently in the Irish health system.

"Health Service Management will be engaging further with the IMO and other relevant parties on the implementation of these arrangements," it added.

The LRC proposals say that the HSE will "consult" with the IMO in identifying the appropriate qualifications and relevant experience which may be applied in determining incremental credit when making new consultant appointments.

However, the IMO has reacted by saying the HSE is "not serious" about tackling the recruitment crisis for consultants.  

IMO Director of Industrial Relations Steve Tweed said that Irish-trained doctors are queuing up to leave the country but the HSE is acting as if the queues are coming the other way.

He said the IMO wants an agreement on where consultants should be placed on the pay scale if they acquired experience overseas or in the role of an acting consultant.  

"The Irish health service is dangerously understaffed at specialist level," he added.