Health Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted that parents of babies who died at the Midlands hospital in Portlaoise had been lied to over the circumstances of their children's deaths.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, the minister said he found it "extremely worrying" and "appalling" that parents who lost children at the hospital "were not dealt with honestly".

This included some cases where parents were told that their child's death was the only one of its kind.

He said it was important to create an environment where hospital clinicians at all levels were honest about mistakes made, but that there had been a culture of defensiveness within the health service.

The minister also said that the HSE continued to dispute some of the findings of a damning investigation carried out by HIQA, the health standards watchdog. 

However, he said both the HSE and his department had accepted all of HIQA's recommendations.

Among these, he said that he hoped to see the proposed Patient Advocacy Service in place sooner than the May 2016 target.

He also wanted to see the planned national maternity strategy published by the end of this year. 

Minister Varadkar also said he expected that terms of reference would be drawn up either this week or the week after for an external review into how certain red flags at Portlaoise hospital did not pass up through HSE management.

He said he expected a final report in a number of months.