The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has warned of possible industrial action if adequate measures including pay increases to address staff shortages are not implemented.

The Irish Medical Organisation has also said that it reserves the right to take any steps "be they political, legal or industrial relations related" if efforts are not made to address pay issues which they contend have led to 500 consultant posts remaining unfilled.

Arriving for talks with health service management on addressing recruitment and retention difficulties in the sector, the General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the issue of potential disruption "is now in the Government's hands".

The INMO has sought an across-the-board pay rise of up to 12% for nurses and midwives to bring them into line with other grades including physiotherapists and radiographers.

However, the Public Service Pay Commission report published earlier this month ruled out general increases, recommending instead targeted allowances to address staff shortages in specific areas.

The INMO has disputed those findings, and has called a Special Delegate Conference for 26 September to examine the Government’s proposals. If they are deemed unsatisfactory, industrial action has not been ruled out.

After today's meeting to discuss the PSPC report findings, Ms Ni Sheaghdha said the management side, represented by the HSE and the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure and Reform had accepted the recommendations in the report, and that the parties had explored a number of issues emanating from that.

She said that she would not characterise the Government's position as an offer, but rather an exploration of the proposals - though the employers are to revert with full information including implementation dates encompassing all matters raised today before next week's INMO conference.

Asked about the prospect of a general pay review, Ms Ni Sheaghdha said there was broad discussion on all aspects including the fact that nurses were paid less and worked longer hours than comparator grades.

Ahead of their separate meeting with management, the Irish Medical Organisation said their priority was to address the pay disparity of up to €50,000 a year between consultants recruited before 2012 and new entrants hired since then.

Dr Anthony O'Connor of the IMO Consultant Committee noted that the PSPC had confirmed that consultants deserved special attention as they had been subjected to the biggest public service pay cuts during the economic crisis.

He said doctors wanted parity for consultants recruited after 2012, as promised by the Taoiseach some years ago.

Asked about the potential prospect of industrial action, he said all options have to be available at the moment, as this situation is having what he called a critical impact on the delivery of health services.

After the meeting, the IMO accused management of paying "little more than lip service" to the issues identified in the PSPC report, and having no willingness to address the "severe" problem of consultant recruitment.

In a statement, the IMO said: "Not only were no proposals presented at the meeting today to address the crisis in our hospitals - the Government side is of the view that engagement on this urgent matter can be indefinitely delayed."

Dr O'Connor said it was deeply concerning that the Government simply did not grasp the scale of the issues, and that with 500 consultant posts vacant and 700,000 people on waiting lists, patients would continue to suffer.

The IMO warned that if proposals to address the issues were not forthcoming, the frustration and anger at the issue would make the prospect of industrial action more likely. 

The HSE confirmed that the meeting had taken place to provide further clarification regarding the provisions of the PSPC report.

It said a number of issues raised required further clarity - primarily with regard to precise numbers encompassed by particular elements of the report.

The employers have undertaken to revert to the unions in respect of those matters over the next 48 hours.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which oversees the state payroll bill said today's meeting has seen discussion of the content of the PSPC report - but that nothing further is scheduled at this time.