Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he does not believe any industrial action by nurses on overcrowding would be helpful.

He said he knows exactly how bad the situation is but the focus has to be on solutions.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after a two-hour meeting with emergency department nurses at the headquarters of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

The INMO has said the threat of industrial action cannot be ruled out.

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said industrial action at the worst affected hospitals would be a last resort.

The INMO executive council will meet tomorrow to hear feedback from today's meeting and decide the next course of action.

Today's meeting was held to assess whether measures announced to tackle the crisis, including 300 additional beds, will be sufficient to alleviate the situation.

It also considered what actions the INMO might take, at individual hospital level, to protect both patients and the health and well-being of staff as winter approaches.

The INMO said there were 308 patients on trolleys in emergency departments, or on wards, waiting for admission to a bed today.

The hospital worst affected was Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda with 41 patients waiting.

Mr Doran has said that only a huge effort will avert the overcrowding crisis.

He said: "Only if there is a massive effort in the next four weeks - a massive effort to recruit staff on proper incentives, a massive effort to open closed long stay beds, a massive effort to restore community care services, home nursing, public health nursing numbers.

"All of those things have to happen."

He added: "The latest figures are the worst we've ever done in that the nine-month total for this year has 71,500 people on trolleys as compared to the 56,000 last year - so it's up around 28%.

"And in September alone it's up 17%, with 7,600 people on trolleys compared to 6,500.

"That's the 15th month in a row when the figures have increased month-on-month cumulatively.

"So obviously whatever has been done to date has failed completely to address the problem and we're going backwards very quickly."