Varadkar says 718,000 waiting-list figure includes double counting and annual checks

The Taoiseach says there is a lot of double counting in the hospital waiting list figures.

The latest stats from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show more than 700,000 people are awaiting treatment.

The highest outpatient waiting lists were at Galway University Hospital, University Hospital Waterford and the Mater in Dublin.

Leo Varadkar has acknowledged there are too many people on waiting lists but he disputed some of the figures out there.

"There aren’t one million out of 2.4 million people on waiting lists, there aren't even that many people sick, never mind on waiting lists," said Mr Varadkar.

"So when you see those figures, they include people who have an appointment already and are waiting to come in. They include people who are suspended from waiting lists.

"They include people who are waiting on things such as annual checks, for example, and obviously you have to wait for an annual check.

"They also include a lot of double counting."

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health, Stephen Donnelly has said that the figures released today show that the government is failing to get to grips with the challenges facing the health system.

"The current performance by Minister Harris is not good enough," said Mr Donnelly.

"It’s clear that this Government is bereft of ideas and competence on health care.

"82,597 people are now waiting over 18 months to have an examination and this figure is rising month on month.

"This is despite the target set by Leo Varadkar that by the end of June 2015 no-one would wait more than 18 months."

Earlier: Record 718,000 people on hospital waiting lists

The number of people waiting for treatment in Irish hospitals has hit a new record high.

Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show over 718,000 people were waiting to be seen or treated by a doctor at the end of August.

The figures include more than 48,000 children - one-third of whom have been waiting for over a year.

According to the figures, 514,585 people were waiting for an outpatient appointment while 74,189 were waiting for inpatient or day case procedures.

Almost half of those on the outpatient list and over 30,000 of patients on the inpatient list have been waiting for over six months.

Nearly 12,000 patients were "suspended" from the lists for a variety of reasons.

The inpatient list has fallen by 2,000.

It comes amid reports that a major overspend at the Department of Health has dashed plans for tax cuts or increased spending in next month's budget.

Galway University Hospital was recorded as having the biggest waiting lists for inpatient, day case and outpatients with more than 50,000 people waiting.

Spokesperson for the Irish Patients Association Stephen McMahon, says that tackling overcrowding is one way to potentially deal with the issue.

"If you can sort out the emergency department overcrowding that means then that patients who have been on elective lists waiting for the hip replacement or other treatments can actually get access on the day that it was planned and that they don't get a last minute cancellation much to their detriment and indeed whatever family arrangements they may have had," said Mr McMahon.

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