Public health doctors belonging to the IMO have voted by 87% to accept a pay agreement with the Department of Health and the HSE which will end their 20 year dispute over regrading as consultants.

Under the deal, the HSE will create 84 consultant posts in public health for the first time.

Up to now, public health specialists were not graded as consultants - and their maximum pay is around €116,000.

Successful candidates for the new consultant posts will be appointed to the existing hospital consultant salary scale for public service-only work starting at €145,000.

However, under proposals tabled by the Government yesterday for the overall hospital consultant grade, salary levels would increase to up to €252,000 by July of 2022 - again conditional on doing exclusively public service work.

34 of those posts will be filled over the next 12 months, the next 30 will be filled between June 2022 and June 2023, while the final 20 will be filled between June and December of 2023.

The appointments will be made on the terms of the Common Consultant Contract.

The landmark agreement will also deliver a new model for public health medicine with a reformed operating and governance structure.

The IMO pledged that it would "actively monitor the implementation of the agreement".

It will seek an early meeting with the HSE regarding the planned timeline for the Phase 1 posts to be advertised.

Late last year public health doctors had voted to take strike action - but deferred that action in the interests of patients during the pandemic and to allow for talks with the HSE.

Ireland is unique in not having consultant status for doctors who have undergone Higher Specialist Training in public health medicine.

The Chairperson of Public Health Committee of the IMO, Dr Anne Dee, welcomed the ballot result, and described the agreement as the culmination of a 20-year campaign to put Irish public health medicine on a par with the rest of the medical profession.

"We believe that it is a landmark agreement for the future of public health in Ireland and will bring the public health discipline here into line with other jurisdictions such as New Zealand, Australia, UK and Canada in having the role of Consultant in Public Health Medicine," she said.

"All existing Specialists in Public Health Medicine will have the opportunity to apply for new posts and this agreement will support our efforts to recruit the next generation of public health doctors who will be relieved to see that Ireland will now respect their skillset in the same manner as other specialties and as other countries do," she added.