An international health expert has said Ireland needs fewer hospital beds and should follow the Danish model of care.

Dr Paul Grundy, who is also a health ambassador for Denmark, said the focus should be on keeping people out of hospital beds and developing the family doctor system.

He was speaking at the Primary Care Partnership conference in Dublin.

The Irish hospital system currently has around 10,500 in-patient beds and the numbers have been reducing in recent years.

A number of medical organisations have called for a significant increase in bed numbers to deal with overcrowding and reduce record waiting lists for treatment.

Chris Goodey, chairman of the Primary Care Partnership, told the meeting that there was an overdependence on hospital care which was 'strangling' the health system.

He said the upcoming Budget must support a decisive shift to GP-led primary care and that immediate action was needed to save the health service.

A Bed Capacity Review, commissioned by the Department of Health, is due to be completed shortly.

It will detail which hospitals and residential care homes need an increase in beds.