Most patients waiting for a hospital operation are seen within a year, according to Health Minister Simon Harris. 

During a Dáil debate on hospital waiting lists, Mr Harris said 56% of patients waiting for a hospital operation or procedure wait less than six months, while 82% wait less than 12 months.

"You never get that impression from a lot of the coverage," Minister Harris said. 

He was responding to a motion from Sinn Féin's Health spokeswoman Louise O'Reilly who said one in seven is now on a waiting list across the state. 

"In May that list grew to a new record of more than 707,000 waiting for a medical procedure," Ms Reilly said. 

She told the Dáil that waiting lists were up, month on month. 

"These people are not numbers - they are living, breathing, feeling people who are on a waiting list because they need medical attention."

She said the Euro Health Consumer Index of 2017 found that Ireland has the worst hospital waiting lists in Europe. 

"The inability to see and treat patients within a medically acceptable and humane timeframe leads to poorer outcomes and increased mortality," Ms O'Reilly said.

She called for an integrated hospital management waiting list, which was introduced in Portugal, and succeeded in reducing waiting lists by actively transferring those on lists in hospitals that are failing to meet the target, to hospitals that had the ability to offer the service on time. 

She said the OECD noted that Portugal had reduced waiting times for surgery over five years by 35%. She said a similar system in the RCSI Hospital Group is already showing results, reducing outpatient lists by 2,613. 

Minister Harris said 78,600 are waiting for a day case procedure compared to 86,100 last year, a 9% drop. He said the NTPF had organised treatment for 7,600 patients up to the of May.

He acknowledged that waiting times are "unacceptably long and many areas lacked capacity to deal with increasing demand". 

He also said the focus of the current action plan is on seven high volume procedures- cataracts, hip and knee replacements, tonsils, angiograms, cystoscopies, skin lesions and veins. 

"All patients who are waiting more than 9 months, who are clinically suitable, will be offered treatment in these seven high volume procedures," he told the Dáil. 

The minister said the health service will treat 3.3m outpatients this year, and will deliver 1.7m operations.