A consultant in emergency medicine has said 300 to 350 patients are dying needlessly each year due to waiting times and a lack of beds in hospitals. 

Dr Fergal Hickey, who works at Sligo General Hospital, said more beds in hospitals would make it possible to provide the appropriate care needed to patients.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Hickey said last year about 80,000 patients spent a night on a trolley, "which is completely unacceptable."

He said this was "causing the the death of somewhere between 300 and 350 patients a year who wouldn't otherwise die.

"I can foresee a situation in 20 or 30 years' time where we have a tribunal of inquiry that looks back at how it was that this was allowed to happen, that this was allowed to continue without anyone saying stop."

He added: "We need enough beds to be able to transfer those patients who had their emergency care into a hospital bed so we can get on and see the next group of patients."

He said politicians "simply don't get it" and that he could see nothing "concrete" in any political manifesto during the election campaign on how to address the key issues facing the health service. 

"For many they see hospital services as a source of employment rather than a source of heath care delivery, which is deeply disappointing."

He said investment in primary care, "while a good thing in its own right is not going to solve the problem of patients on trolleys, except over many years".

Dr Hickey said evidence shows that if alternatives such as primary care are available they are used by other patients for other things and the problem in hospitals would persist. 

He emphasised that investment in more beds is the key to improving the health service and reducing waiting times.

When asked about the health service on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he accepted responsibility for not being able to deal with more issues.

"Perhaps if I had more time and had more money I might have done more," he said.