Public health doctors belonging to the Irish Medical Organisation are to ballot on proposals to resolve their 20-year dispute over securing hospital consultant status.

Under the proposals, which will be recommended for acceptance, the HSE will create 84 consultant posts in public health for the first time ever.

The deal will deliver a significant pay rise for successful applicants.

It will also avert the threat of industrial action, which was deferred due to the pandemic.

Public health specialists currently earn €116,000, but successful candidates for consultant posts will start at €145,000.

Thirty four of the consultant posts must be filled over the next 12 months, with the next 30 recruited between June 2022 and June 2023.

The remaining 20 appointments will be made between June and December 2023.

Appointments will be made on the basis of the Common Consultant Contract.

The agreement also provides for a new model of public health medicine to reform the operating and governance structure within public health with a "more fit for purpose" regional management structure.

The decision to ballot follows a meeting between the HSE and the IMO Public Health Committee to discuss the terms of an agreement with the Department of Health reached after intensive negotiations.

The long-running dispute centred on the refusal of successive governments to grade public health specialists as consultants.

The IMO argued that Ireland was unique in having no public health consultants.

The 60 current public health doctors had balloted for strike action last year, but deferred it in light of the pandemic to allow for talks.

The incoming Chairperson of the IMO Public Health Committee Dr Anne Dee described the proposals as a landmark agreement in terms of the development of public health in Ireland with the potential to transform public health in Ireland.

She noted that all existing public health specialists will have the opportunity to apply for the new posts, and their "critical" speciality would finally be afforded the respect it deserved.