There are 147 hospital beds closed around the country, according to new figures obtained by RTÉ News.

The beds have been closed for a variety of reasons including infection control, refurbishment, staff shortages and cost containment.

The figures are contained in a Health Service Executive report up to 11 November.

The report also shows that there are 623 so-called "delayed discharges" - beds occupied by patients whose acute care has finished but who have not been discharged home, to step-down facilities or to a nursing home.

The report puts the average number of patients on trolleys in emergency departments each day at 338.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said this winter will be a challenging period in the service and it is important to be honest about that.

Speaking on his way into the Emergency Department Taskforce meeting, he said a huge amount of work has been done by the HSE to prepare for the period ahead.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said more beds and staff are crucial to dealing with overcrowding.

It said the winter plan has to avoid a repeat of record overcrowding seen last January.