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Break in proceedings 'very helpful' in progressing hospital consultants cases, High Court hears

By Ann O'Loughlin

Substantial progress has been made in talks aimed at resolving breach of contract claims brought by Irish hospital consultant doctors against the HSE and the State, the High Court has heard.

The hearing of several lead cases in the dispute was due to commence last week.

However, the actions have been put on hold to facilitate talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

Today, John Rogers SC for a number of the consultants told High Court judge, Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, the break had been "very helpful" and efforts were ongoing to bring about a resolution of the dispute.

Counsel asked that the cases be adjourned to Friday morning. The Judge agreed to the adjournment.

The cases, she said, are "complex and significant" and the court was prepared to give the parties time to allow the discussions to continue.

The Judge has been asked to hear several lead cases in claims brought by hundreds of consultant doctors who allege there was a breach of their contract in relation to agreed pay promises in the 2008 consultants' contract.

The cases centre around a 2008 contract where pay increases were agreed for consultants in return for those doctors adopting new working conditions from July of 2008 onwards, including bringing their working week from 37 to 39 hours.

The consultant's claims of a breach of contract are opposed by the State and the HSE.

If the doctors are successful the State may have to pay out up to €700m.