The number of Irish people with private health insurance fell by 34,000 in the first nine months of 2010, it was emerged.

For the first time in several years, more than half of the Irish population are not covered by private insurance.

Figures released from the Health Insurance Authority, on Friday show that 49.8pc now have insurance compared to 50.8pc this time last year.

With premiums expected to rise again next year, thousands more are expected to decline on renewing their policies.

Costs associated with private facilities in public hospitals will come under pressure in the upcoming December budget.

European Commission warns that Irish hospital consultants must have their salaries cut