A new report has said there are not enough intensive care beds in major public hospitals.

The Irish National ICU (Intensive Care Unit) Audit Report for 2018 says that a shortage of these beds is leading to delays in admission to ICU for patients, which increases the severity of their illness and affects eventual survival.

It has called for the number of intensive care beds in public hospitals to be increased much faster than planned.

The health service plan is to increase the number of these beds to 430 by 2031.

Today's report puts the number of ICU beds in 2018 at 249. Last year, the number of ICU beds increased to 255.

Dr Rory Dwyer, clinical lead for the report, said the increase in beds must happen faster, to deal with the "unmet need" for care of  critically ill patients.

The report looked at data on 8,341 patients in intensive care units.

Bed occupancy was very high - up to 96% in some units.

Units varied widely in terms of the number of beds, number of admissions and case mix.

It found that 79% of all patients survived to leave hospital, which it said was within the expected range.

The report has also recommended that the rates of organ donation after brain death be improved in the larger units.

The findings are based on critical care from 18 units in 15 hospitals.

A separate report, also from the National Office for Clinical Audit, found that falls are the most common preventable cause of major trauma in Ireland.

Dr Conor Deasy, clinical lead for the major trauma audit, said that walking in your front door can be more dangerous than walking out your front door.

Most falls happen at home and involve low falls of about two metres.

The Health Service Executive has welcomed the ICU beds report and said it is fully committed to continuously improving ICU services.

Dr Vida Hamilton, National Clinical Advisor for Acute Hospitals, said the report demonstrated the impact of excessive occupancy and busyness on patient outcomes and how this can be reversed with extra resources.

The National Office for Clinical Audit was established in 2012 and is funded by the HSE quality improvement team.

It is governed by an independent voluntary board and operationally supported by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.