The Health Information and Quality Authority is to conduct a series of rapid reviews of the benefit of some high volume planned surgical procedures, following a request by the HSE.

Around 50,000 patients are on waiting lists for these procedures.

Tens of thousands of operations are performed in Ireland each year for cataracts, tonsillectomy, varicose veins, total hip replacement, skin lesions, lumps and some cosmetic procedures.

The HSE says there was a 22% increase in demand for these procedures last year and around 80 scheduled surgery procedures have been referred to the review.

Around 130,000 of these procedures were performed last year.

The review will result in some procedures being limited to patients who derive clear clinical benefit.

It is also likely to result in new strict clinical criteria being developed before patients are referred for procedures by GPs to consultants and put on a waiting list.

HIQA's Director of Health Technology Assessment, Dr Máirin Ryan said that by limiting such procedures in patients who derive limited clinical benefit, there is a potential to free up capacity for treatments of higher clinical value, given the limited funding available in the health system.

She said the review would ensure that patients most in need of surgery receive the required treatment as quickly as possible.

In relation to total hip replacement, the review will look at criteria such as the age and current mobility of the patient.

In the case of a tonsillectomy, it will look at criteria such as the number of episodes of tonsillitis in the last year and in relation to varicose veins, how much pain and discomfort the patient is in.

Reduced referrals would also cut the number of patients on elective hospital waiting lists.

HIQA has convened an Expert Advisory Group to oversee the series of rapid technology assessments.

The first of around six valuations will be completed during the first quarter of next year and it is hoped to have all of the evaluations completed by the end of 2013.

The completed evaluations will be submitted to the Minister for Health and the HSE.