The Emergency Department Task Force met for the first time today to devise long-term solutions to overcrowding in hospitals.

It follows major problems last week at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, which had to cancel some procedures due to overcrowding.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Tony O'Connell, the Health Service Executive National Director of Acute Hospital Services.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and senior officials from the health service and unions were also present.

Mr Varadkar said the task force will meet on a monthly basis.

He said the HSE will work on an action plan to be produced in early 2015.

"We cannot rely solely on intensive short-term solutions if we are going to manage access to emergency and acute care," Minister Varadkar said.

"I welcome this engagement of service providers, union representatives and officials to address the problems being experienced by emergency departments and to ensure that patients who require acute hospital care can access the service they need when they need it."

Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation has called for planned admissions to acute hospitals in January to be cancelled to deal with emergency department overcrowding.

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said the measure was required to maintain safe patient care, manageable workloads for staff and in recognition of the limited bed capacity that exists now.

There are 297 patients around the country in emergency departments or on wards waiting to be admitted to a bed, according to figures from the INMO.

The breakdown is 248 in emergency departments and 49 on wards.

The hospitals worst affected are:

- Naas General Hospital 29 patients
- Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda 21
- Limerick University Hospital 19
- Mater Hospital 18
- St Vincent's Hospital 17