Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that the number of patients on waiting lists for the longest period has begun to decline.
Minister Harris has said that the latest National Treatment Purchase Fund figures for the month of November show the number of people waiting for inpatient or daycase procedures for between 15-18 month has declined by 364.
The news comes as GPs report an increase in waiting times at their clinics.
The National Association of General Practitioners said that only 32% were able to provide an urgent appointment in less than three hours, down from 73% five years ago.
Welcoming thr NTPF report, Minster Harris said: "It is really encouraging to see reductions in the numbers of patients waiting the longest for procedures in our health service.
"I have been determined since I became Minister to make whatever impact I can for these patients and it is very welcome that we are beginning to see results.
He added: "For the first time, the number of patients waiting over 18 months has reduced too, by 948.
"I am pleased to also see that the NTPF Endoscopy Initiative is continuing to make an impact with the total number of patients waiting for this procedure down 672 since last month.
"Overall, this initiative has seen a reduction of 5,282 in the number of patients waiting the longest.
"The NTPF expects that no patient will be waiting for more than 12 months by the end of the year. I see this as a really important sign of what the NTPF can achieve and the benefit of targeted initiatives.
“The HSE has advised that, since August, there has been a reduction of over 8,000 patients on the Inpatient/Daycase Waiting List under the Waiting List Action Plan either through treatment provision, clinical validation or being given a date for their procedure to take place.
He concluded: "There is no doubt that the number of people on waiting lists is too high but the really critical thing is how long people are waiting. I am determined that those who are waiting the longest are put first.
"Detailed work is already under way in my Department on an expanded initiative in 2017, supported by funding of €20m, which will rise to €55m in 2018.
"I recently granted approval to the NTPF for the first €5m of this spending for an initiative focused on Daycase procedures, which account for 70% of the Inpatient/Daycase Waiting List.
"The NTPF anticipates that 2,500 of the longest waiting Daycase patients can be treated under this initiative with the aim that no patient would be waiting over 18 months for a day case procedure by June of next year.
"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the considerable work which has been ongoing in hospitals since August to deliver on the HSE’s Waiting List Action Plan 2016.
"I appreciate that it has been challenging for hospitals and Hospital Groups in maintaining a focus on driving down the Inpatient/Daycase Waiting Lists, while at the same time managing the growing demand for emergency care."