The Health Service Executive spent an estimated €5,000 a week to external public relations companies and on in-house communications for six hospital groups last year.

According to a report on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O'Rourke, an estimated €1 million was spent on PR for these hospital groups.

An estimated €580,000 was paid to six external PR companies for work provided to 11 hospital groups, while eight in-house staff earned an estimated €400,000.

HSE National Director of Communications Paul Connors said they provide a "very valuable public service for the taxpayer".

He said the HSE delivers 300 significant major communications projects each year, develop and manage 60 websites, 17 Facebook pages, 13 Twitter accounts and 3,000 media queries.

The Department of Health has four internal staff working on Press and Communications, but it does not employ the services of an external PR company.

However, following Brexit and the relocation of the Europeans Medicines Agency - which Dublin was hoping to secure -  the Depertment of Health paid one PR company €114,000 for PR advice.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has no in-house PR staff but paid an external PR company €76,000 for event management and training last year.

Mr Connors said the HSE spent less on communications than the NHS.

He said the HSE spent between 0.05 - 0.08%, while the NHS spent 0.1%.