The head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said industrial action by nurses planned for next month is about staffing and safety for both patients and nurses.

The INMO says Health Service Executive proposals have not gone far enough to persuade members that management was serious about addressing staffing shortfalls, and the requirement for incentives to ensure recruitment and retention of nurses.

The strike action, by 35,000 nurses, will take the form of a work-to-rule from Tuesday 7 March.

INMO members will refuse to do overtime, cross cover or redeploy from ward-to-ward to plug gaps, but will provide the normal range of duties on their allocated wards.

There is also the potential of further rolling strikes focused on acute hospitals from the following week.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said the numbers on waiting lists and trolleys will not reduce until the recruitment and retention of nurses is dealt with.

He denied his union's decision to carry out a work-to-rule is a "money grab", saying nurses have not sought a new pay claim and have just looked for the restoration of certain payments.

The waiting list figures are not shocking to him, he said, due to the constant under-funding and under-staffing in the system.

Earlier, Mr Doran said that clinical duties will not be withdrawn on strike days but nurses would not paper over the cracks of a failing health service by carrying out two or three jobs.

To those who would have appointments cancelled on strike days, he said that they should bring it up with the Government, but should not blame the nurses.

The planned action by INMO members is to be discussed at a meeting of the Lansdowne Road Agreement Oversight Group.

On hearing the INMO decision, the Department of Health issued a statement saying Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe were both "deeply disappointed".

"There will be no further comment at this time pending a meeting of the Lansdowne Road Agreement Oversight Group, which will take place tomorrow and where the issue of the consequences of the proposed industrial action by the INMO will be considered."

- Dept of Health

In a statement, the HSE said it was disappointed with the outcome of the talks with the INMO.

It said it had engaged in extensive discussions for a period of three weeks and made significant progress on a number of issues.

The statement said the HSE had noted the INMO comments and remains open to dialogue.

Meanwhile, SIPTU health division organiser Paul Bell said his union, which represents a further 4,000 nurses, needs to speak with the INMO to see where its sticking points are and if there is the possibility of further dialogue with the Department of Health. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Bell said it is difficult to achieve everything you want in a negotiation and that SIPTU remains open to dialogue.

He added that SIPTU intends to engage with its members early next week to see what type of supports they are prepared to give to their INMO colleagues.

Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said a shortage of nurses and midwives hurts and patients are not being served the way they should.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dail, he asked Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald if she can give patients around the country that the situation is not going to get worse ahead of planned industrial action.

Ms Fitzgerald said huge efforts have been made by all sides to resolve the dispute, but the proposals have been rejected by the INMO.

She said it is also about changing GP contracts so more people can get better services in the community as well as looking at a review of bed capacity.