An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied that figures for hospital waiting lists are deliberately being massaged to hide their true extent.
However, he admitted last night’s RTÉ documentary on hospital waiting lists was "hard to watch".
Dáil business this afternoon has been dominated by the discovery that nearly 49,000 people are waiting for hospital treatment but do not appear on official waiting lists.
Mr Kenny said that has been the case for 15 years, and was not engineered by the current government.
He said that since the National Treatment Purchase Fund started in 2002 this was always the way that these figures were presented, according to best international standards at that time.
“So people who just get a call to say that they are going to have an operation or treatment, and those who have had one treatment but need a second, were never counted on these figures.”
The Labour Party earlier accused the HSE of committing a form of fraud on the Irish people over waiting lists.
The party’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly said: "This has been going on for some time, people have been misled.
"The public have been given a fraud here in relation to the volume of people that are waiting and he needs to outline over a short period of time what has happened, how long it has been happening, why it has happened,
"It is not good enough to say that there is some best practice in place in relation to formulating lists."