New figures show that over 10% of inpatient hospital beds cannot be used because they are either occupied by patients who are medically fit to go home, or the beds are closed.

Over 1,500 inpatient beds of the approximate 11,200 spaces in the hospital system are affected.

Figures from the Health Safety Executive show that 852 hospital beds are closed due to financial cutbacks, infection control, refurbishment or other reasons.

A separate report reveals that 680 of the patients are occupying hospital beds around the country, despite the fact that their acute care had ended and they are medically fit to be discharged.

The HSE report for the Public Accounts Committee shows that 44 patients have been waiting six months or more to be discharged.

Many of these are elderly patients for whom alternative arrangements have not been put in place.

The main reasons for the delay in discharging people include people awaiting approval for nursing home care under the Fair Deal scheme, people waiting for home help, a home care package, access to a rehabilitation facility, or equipment from the HSE.

The association representing private home care said that the delayed discharges in hospital beds is costing €500,000 a day.

Home and Community Care Ireland's Michael Harty said that this money could fund 25,000 home help hours of care.

Mr Harty said that people want to be cared for at home where possible but he said that the maximum number of home help hours funded by the HSE is ten hours which covers low levels of dependency.

The hospitals with the largest number of delayed discharges are in Dublin, with 98 patients occupying beds in St James's Hospital, the Mater with 95 patients, and Beaumont Hospital with 89 patients.