More than 1,000 people a week are giving up their private health insurance, according to new figures from the Health Insurance Authority.

The data shows that in the first three months of this year 16,000 people did not renew their health insurance.

The Irish Patients’ Association said the trend has serious implications for premiums and also for the public health service, which it says is already overstretched and underfunded.

Last year 37,000 people left the private health insurance market.

However, more than half the population - some 2.246m people - are covered by private health insurance.