Hospital emergency departments across Ireland have reported an increase in numbers attending in the first 20 days of the year.

The Health Service Executive said that there were 64,962 attendances across all emergency departments, which is up 5,415 on the same period in 2015.

Today, the number of patients on trolleys in hospital emergency departments or on wards, waiting for admission to a bed has reduced to 462 compared with 492 yesterday.

In emergency departments alone, there are around 380 patients waiting, separate figures from the Health Service Executive and the Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation show.

The HSE said 158 of these were waiting over nine hours.

In line with the agreed emergency department procedures, some hospitals have decided to postpone elective procedures to help ease pressures.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has said it is postponing non-urgent procedures today, because of an increase in the number of people presenting to its emergency department. 

The hospital says there are currently no plans to postpone any planned procedures on Monday.

It said it regrets the difficult conditions experienced by patients at its emergency department in recent days, which led to the postponement of five non-urgent procedures yesterday.

Yesterday saw all non-urgent elective procedures at Cork University Hospital and the Mater Hospital in Dublin postponed, because of increased pressure on the emergency departments at those hospitals.

A number of non-urgent procedures were also postponed at St James's Hospital in Dublin.

30 elective procedures were cancelled at Cork University Hospital yesterday with patients advised their appointments will be rescheduled.

Six non-urgent procedures were postponed at St James's Hospital.

The HSE said that all affected patients have been contacted and informed that their appointments will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

The hospitals worst affected by overcrowding are Beaumont with 41 patients waiting, St Vincent's University Hospital with 33, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda with 32 and University Hospital Waterford with 32.

Many emergency departments have been exceptionally busy over recent days, leading to significant delays for patients attending and those waiting for admission to a bed.

A marked increase in the proportion of older people attending has been reported and these patients typically have a higher requirement for admission.

The executive said that influenza-like rates have quadrupled.

It said people should explore other options before attending an emergency department if their needs are not urgent.

There are a number of minor and local injury units around the country for treatment and care for non-urgent matters including: the Rapid Access Clinic in Smithfield, Dublin; Mercy Urgent Care Centre, Gurranabraher, Cork; and the Minor Injury Unit at Louth County Hospital, Dundalk.

The Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore is asking patients with non-emergency medical issues to attend their local GP or Midoc service.

A statement from the hospital explained it is "exceptionally busy".

A spokeswoman said no measures have been put in place at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

Elsewhere, visitor restrictions which were put in place during recent overcrowding at the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar are due to be lifted tomorrow.