The Irish Hospital Consultants' Association has claimed that patients are dying unnecessarily because of having to wait on a trolley in emergency departments.

At the association's annual conference in Cork, its President Dr Gerard Crotty said many acute hospital departments are in crisis.

Dr Crotty said waiting on a trolley is linked to a 30% increase in mortality, according to studies.

Speaking at the conference in Cork, Dr Crotty said the health service was in intensive care, after suffering the cumulative effects of six years of cuts, the most severe in history.

He said crude frontline budget cuts were having disastrous effects on patients.

Many acute hospital departments were in crisis, or on the brink of collapsing, because consultants who have left cannot be replaced, he said.

In contrast, he said the State was paying €1m a day using agency staff, mainly because of a shortage of non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants.

Dr Crotty said there was an opportunity to start the process of restoring trust with the appointment of new leadership in the Department of Health.

Newly-appointed Department of Health Secretary General Jim Breslin told the conference that even if the health budget discussions for 2015 are successful, funding cannot meet all the priorities advanced by people.

Mr Breslin said that co-operation with change should be part of normal business for health staff, rather than being dependent on extra pay.

Meanwhile, the IHCA has confirmed that a number of consultants are to take High Court action against the State alleging breach of contract in not applying a pay increase in June 2009.

The association's secretary general, Martin Varley, said he could not quantify the sum of money involved due to the various types of contracts and other factors.