Thousands of people have been removed from hospital waiting lists through the issuing of validation letters, new figures have revealed.

Validation letters were issued in over 195,300 cases this year, according to the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

The figures show that 28,140 patients did not respond to the letters. As a result, 19,492 of these were removed from the national lists.

The NTPF said the removal of patients who do not require hospital care from waiting lists frees up offers of appointment for patients who do.

It said that the National Centralised Validation Unit has developed a standardised process, which ensures the accuracy of waiting lists are validated equitably, efficiently, fairly and with due care.

Validation involves two letters being issued to patients asking if they still require treatment and giving the patient a deadline of 14 days in which to respond for each letter.

If patients do not respond to either letter, hospitals are expected to follow-up with the patients either directly, or through their GP.

The figures from the NTPF for 2019 show that 3,135 patients asked to be removed from the inpatient and day case list under the validation process.

A further 12,793 asked to be removed from the outpatient list.

While the exact reasons for a request to be removed are not gathered, patients may have had their treatment privately, or under the NTPF, through the cross-border scheme, or they may have presented to an emergency department and got treatment, or asked to be removed from the list for other reasons.

Other reasons for a non-response could include a change of address, death or forgetting to meet the response deadlines.

The new figures were obtained by the Irish Patients' Association from the NTPF.

Latest figures show there are over 768,000 people on a hospital waiting list to be seen at a clinic or for treatment.