Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has told the Dáil that he does not intend to lift the embargo in relation to the recruitment of new staff to replace those who left the health service in the last year.

He was replying to a question by Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin who said that 2,000 nurses have left under this particular retirement scheme.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said this is a very serious situation within the frontline health services.

Minister Reilly said that the health service needs to be reformed to make it more efficient.

He said he had travelled to many hospitals in the last few weeks, and is happy that the frontline services are being protected.

The minister also told the Dáil that the expert group on the new national children's hospital will not have a site selection responsibility.

He said that the group chaired by Dr Frank Dolphin would not be inspecting sites, as this could delay the process by years.

The group will advise on the pros and cons of each option so that the Government can make a decision.

Minister Reilly also confirmed that he had received correspondence from NAMA suggesting 11 potential sites for the new hospital.

The minister said that some of the sites proposed might be useful for other health projects.