National hospital waiting list numbers have reached over 819,000 for the first time.

This includes a record 601,300 people now waiting to be seen at an outpatient clinic.

The figures for the end of July were published this evening by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

There are 80,283 patients waiting to be seen for day case or inpatient treatment.

The overall total of 819,037 compares with 802,300 at the end of June.

While waiting lists were at over 700,000 before the arrival of Covid-19, it has contributed further to growing lists.

This is because procedures were postponed earlier in the emergency and fewer procedures are now possible as a result of strict precautions.

The Irish Hospital Consultants' Association said the growing waiting lists "are not simply a result of Covid-19 but demonstrate the impact of years of consultant shortages and under-investment in capacity across the health system".

IHCA president Dr Donal O'Hanlon said: "Our health service capacity deficits can and should be addressed immediately.

"The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly’s previous commitment to address the consultant recruitment and retention crisis, and to get more specialists back working in our acute hospitals is key to reducing waiting lists."

The IHCA said Ireland already has 41% fewer medical specialists on a population basis than the EU average, and a third to a half of the number in some specialties.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane called on Minister Donnelly to "urgently produce" a health plan.

"Covid-19 has exposed a healthcare system which does not have enough beds, enough consultants or enough nurses and other allied health professionals.

"As we approach the winter season, we need an urgent plan to massively and rapidly increase capacity."

He said Sinn Féin has published a fully costed €2billion plan. "Now Minister Donnelly must also publish his. We need a response on a scale never seen before."