HSE Acute Services National Director Ian Carter has said 150 new nursing home beds will be opened from next week with further beds to open in February as part of efforts to move patients in hospitals from trolleys to beds.

Mr Carter said that efforts to introduce significant home care support options will also be expedited.

Funding that is normally available for fair deal packages is being moved into home care packages in order to facilitate the move.

He said efforts to manage patients at home have become increasingly better.

"If a patient waits too long before going home in a nursing home unit they will never go home. 

“If they actually are supported in the community you can have some of those low dependency patients who historically would have gone to nursing homes being actually very well managed at home, which is the best place for them", he said.

Meanwhile, Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly said the increase in the number of elderly patients presenting at hospital emergency departments is largely due to a lack of community beds.

Mr Daly says recent cuts to the Fair Deal budget, contained in the HSE service plan for 2014, had left many elderly people with no option but to remain in the acute hospital sector.

Mr Daly was speaking after the HSE announced it would be introducing new beds in the community this week.

He said he was hoping to meet representatives from the Health Service Executive later today.

Mr Daly said that as the number of elderly patients was expected to increase significantly in the coming years, the HSE needed to ensure it had sufficient capacity to meet the care requirements of an ageing population. 

Figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation reveal there are 436 patients on trolleys stationed in wards or emergency departments. 

This is down slightly on yesterday's figure of 467.