The Irish Medical Organisation has described the first round of talks with the Department of Health on issues facing consultants as disappointing.

It said it is setting a 21-day deadline for the receipt of serious proposals from the Government to deal with the consultant recruitment crisis, otherwise it will ballot its consultant and non-consultant hospital doctor members for industrial action.

Former IMO President, Dr Matt Sadlier, said the meeting lasted an hour and the issue of pay parity for more recently appointed consultants was not on the table today.

He said that the IMO was prepared to talk about reform in the health service, but they can only do that when all consultants are starting from the same pay point.

Mr Sadlier said recruitment and retention of consultants was a manpower crisis.

He added that no date had been set for a further meeting with the Department.

Consultants are seeking pay parity for specialists appointed since October 2012, compared with established consultants and they also want measures to deal with the recruitment and retention of consultants.

The IMO has said that the 30% pay disparity for more recently appointed consultants must be abolished.

Medical organisations have suggested that the pay difference can be about €50,000 less a year.

Minister for Health Simon Harris had indicated that talks will be broadened to include other organisations, including the Irish Hospital Consultants Association.

The IHCA has criticised the failure to invite it to today's talks. Its council recently passed a motion of no confidence in Minister Harris.

The IHCA told a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee that there were 519 permanent consultant posts unfilled and that many of these posts are filled by agency staff.

The talks between consultants and the State are expected to continue for many months, and such talks in the past have historically taken a long period to reach a conclusion.

There are over 3,200 consultants in Ireland.

The basic public salary for a new entrant consultant can range from around €130,000 to around €195,000 depending on the type of contract.

It can be significantly higher if a consultant does private work.