The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has called for the establishment of a network of rapid access clinics to respond to an upsurge in attendances at the country's hospital emergency departments.

The association said presentations at emergency departments are exceeding peak winter levels.

Cork University Hospital is one of the biggest acute hospitals in the country.

Its emergency department is also one of the country's busiest, with 68,000 presentations per year.

Most of those attendances occur in winter but now, and in other emergency departments around the country over the past six weeks, new daily attendance records are being set.

The association representing doctors and consultants in emergency medicine wants a network of rapid access clinics rolled out to ease the pressure.

The pressure does not only apply to hospital emergency departments: GPs' surgeries are feeling it too.

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid accepted that the country's acute hospitals are now under considerable pressure.

He said that it is partly because of delayed presentations among older people who generally require greater care and longer stays.