The Health Service Executive said it will introduce new beds in the community this to ensure more hospital patients are discharged, to accommodate extra patients coming into emergency departments.

National head of acute hospitals and head of the Special Delivery Unit Ian Carter said there was a 5% surge in patients at the start of the year, many of whom are elderly patients needing admission.

He said that this morning, the HSE recorded 387 patients on trolleys but by 2pm this had been reduced to 267 patients.

Mr Carter said this proved that the system was getting patients to beds at the earliest opportunity.

Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation show that the number of patients on trolleys in hospitals waiting for admission to a bed continues to increase.

The INMO said today that there were 467 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or in wards waiting for admission to a bed,  an increase of six on yesterday's total figure.

The INMO said that of the 467 patients affected today, 374 were on trolleys in emergency departments and 93 on trolleys in wards.

On the same day last year there were 345 patients on trolleys in emergency departments, compared with 374 today.

The worst affected hospitals today were Beaumont Hospital in Dublin with 49 patients waiting on trolleys, University Hospital Galway with 37 patients waiting, the Midland Regional Tullamore with 33 patients and Connolly Hospital Dublin with 32 patients.

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said there is a year-on-year increase in the number of people on trolleys.

He said the increase was 2% and claimed the HSE's Special Delivery Unit was no longer as effective as it had been in dealing with the problem.

Mr Doran said that more funding was needed to open closed beds and to fund "step-down" beds and home care packages.

He said claims that overcrowding had reduced were untrue and part of the problem had been shifted to wards, where patients on trolleys were being placed.