Nurses' representatives and the HSE are locked in talks tonight over next Thursday's strike action by emergency department nurses in seven hospitals across the country.

The Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, has told both sides that he wants a decision on whether the strikes are going ahead by the morning to allow certainty for patients and hospital administrators. 

The HSE, the Irish Nurses and Midwifes Organisation (INMO) and the Government all agree that measures are required to address overcrowding and under-staffing in emergency departments.  

However, earlier this week, nurses rejected proposals hammered out at the WRC before Christmas amid scepticism that management were really committed to implementing them - particularly at local level. 

These WRC talks are essentially identifying confidence-building measures to persuade nurses that the situation will be tackled. 

The two sides are now working on a document which it is hoped will ultimately deliver sufficient specifics to allow the INMO to suspend the strikes pending a re-ballot of nurses. 

However, that requires painstaking work to examine the potential implications of anything agreed - for other sections of hospitals, for the health service or for other staff grades. 

It is expected that the talks will continue well into the night - and it is hoped that by morning, patients and hospitals will know whether the strikes are going ahead. 

The HSE earlier said it was hopeful a solution can be found for staff and patients, while the INMO said it was vital proposals were matched by management action.

Nurses are due to stage two-hour work stoppages next Thursday.

The stoppages are due to take place at Beaumont Hospital; Tallaght Hospital; University College Hospital Galway; Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore; Cork's Mercy University Hospital; Cavan General Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he had provided €135m extra towards the fair deal scheme.

He said 1,000 extra nurses and 1,000 extra doctors have been provided.

Speaking on the same programme, Independent TD Joan Collins said the key thing is the bed crisis. 

She said the problem in health stemmed from 50 years ago and that it is a two-tier system, while it should be a one-tier system.

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said the problem in the health service is a management issue. He said there should be an upfront budget instead of a supplementary budget.

Mr Howlin said all the planning and resources, such as providing step-down beds, has not been sufficient.