The Government has promised to reduce by 20,000 the number of patients waiting for in-patient, or day case treatment, by the end of the year, under an action plan being published today.

Most of the procedures being targeted are high-volume operations, such as hip and knee replacements, cataracts, tonsils, angiograms, skin lesions, cystoscopies and varicose veins.

The operations will be performed in both public and private hospitals, where there is available capacity.

The current overall national waiting lists stand at over 692,000 people, according to the National Treatment Purchase Fund February data.

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It means that the target of reducing lists by 20,000 cases represents just under 3% of the total waiting on all lists.

The plan promises to reduce the overall number of patients mainly in one area - on the 'Active' waiting list - to less than 70,000 by the end of this year.

It will also reduce the number of people waiting longer than nine months.

All patients who are clinically suitable for outsourcing, waiting more than nine months, will be offered treatment this year, for the targeted high-volume procedures.

An extra 4,000 gastrointestinal scopes are also promised.

The 70,000 target in the plan is based on a figure of 81,500 patients on the 'active' inpatient/day case waiting list in December, published by the NTPF.

Patients waiting for an appointment date for their treatment are categorised as 'Active'.

Separate to the 'Active' waiting list, there is a 'To Come In' list of 25,120 patients who have a scheduled appointment date for their treatment.

There is also a 'Planned Procedure' waiting list, of 64,700 patients who have had treatment and require additional treatment at a future date.

The Action Plan was prepared by the Department of Health, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

It is being funded by an allocation of €50 million, previously announced by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

The Private Hospitals Association said its network of 19 available hospitals around the country can readily accommodate all of the high-volume treatment specialties prioritised by the Department in the waiting list plan.

It said that in any one year its hospitals carry out around 250,000 theatre procedures, so it has the capacity to take on work.