The Irish Patients Association has called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to personally intervene with all the parties involved in the medical scientists' dispute and ask them to stand down and not put patients' lives at risk.

"Patients must not be used as pawns in any industrial dispute, it's never too late for common sense to prevail," said Stephen McMahon, director of the Irish Patients Association.

The Health Service Executive warned of significant disruption and service delays in hospitals tomorrow due to a planned strike by medical scientists.

The HSE said the industrial action will lead to the cancellation of many inpatient and day-case elective procedures as well as hospital outpatient appointments across the country.

All routine GP testing services will be suspended.

"Some limited services will continue but unfortunately there will be wide scale disruption to patients," the HSE said in a statement.

"Emergency Departments are already experiencing the knock-on effect of this action today as GPs cannot send routine lab tests to hospitals and instead have had to refer patients directly to emergency departments. This is leading to delays for patients with non-urgent care needs and such delays are expected to continue tomorrow," the HSE said.

Affected patients are being contacted directly and people are being asked not to phone hospitals.

The HSE said efforts are continuing to try to avert the strike and that it is working with the trade union that represents medical scientists, the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA), to ensure arrangements are in place tomorrow for the provision of a limited range of services.

The action means that routine laboratory services are being withdrawn from 8am-8pm tomorrow.

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Medical scientists carry out critical diagnostic testing of patient samples with the majority of them working at laboratories in public hospitals.

They are taking strike action over long-standing pay and career development issues.

The MLSA has warned that if no progress is made, a further two days of action are planned for 24 May and 25 May, with three further strikes planned for 31 May, 1 June and 2 June.

The chairperson of the MLSA Kevin O'Boyle said there is huge frustration and burn-out among medical scientists because of a severe recruitment and retention problem.

"Up to 20% of approved medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals," Mr O'Boyle said.

"Medical scientists carry out identical work to other colleagues in hospital laboratories, yet are paid on average 8% less," he added.

The MLSA says it has made every effort to avoid disruption to patients and fellow healthcare workers but has been left with no alternative.

The union represents more than 2,100 medical scientists employed in public voluntary hospitals, HSE hospitals, private hospitals and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.