Health spending has remained relatively constant over the past three years, according to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

In a blog on health on his department's website, the minister said that the substantial reductions in health expenditure took place prior to 2011.

He said the experience was not unique to Ireland and that health expenditure had risen dramatically everywhere over the past decade.

In 2008, gross health spending in Ireland was at €15.4bn a year, falling to €14.2bn in 2011 and it was €14.1bn at the end of last year.

"What is notable about the trajectory of health expenditure in recent years is that health expenditure has not fallen dramatically since this Government came into office," the minister said.