The Health Service Executive's Winter Plan, published today, promises 251 extra acute hospital beds this year plus 232 early next year.

Aside from the 483 extra acute beds, 89 sub-acute beds will be put in place this year. A sub-acute bed is a lower level bed than an acute bed, often as a midway for a patient not ready to be discharged home yet.

There will be 17 extra critical care beds to add to the existing 282 Intensive Care Unit beds.

Under the 30-page Winter Plan, approved by the Department of Health, most of the extra €600m in funding is to be provided next year - €200m will be spent this year and €400m next year.

The plan covers the period from now up to April 2021.

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid has said Ireland had 225 ICU beds at the start of the pandemic and there are currently 282 beds in the system with the aim to improve on these numbers as part of the Winter Plan.

The HSE has said that 10,260 extra staff will be needed this year and next year for the core elements of the new plan.

The breakdown is 2,760 this year and 7,500 next year.

The HSE's Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor said the Winter Plan aims to maintain the current bed capacity and to keep 400 temporary beds that were open to deal with Covid-19 in place as well as opening over 400 more.

The plan promises 20,000 more planned procedures. It says that trolley counts will be cut by 30%.

Twenty Community Assessment Hubs are also to be in place to help keep patients out of hospital.

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It is unclear exactly how many extra medical, nursing and other health staff will be recruited to service these extra beds and what facilities are to be put in place.

Just under five million extra home support hours are to be provided.

GPs will also have access to more diagnostics in public and private hospitals.

Mr Reid warned that the country is heading into a winter period like "none of us have probably ever experienced before and hopefully never will experience again".

Speaking at a HSE press conference this morning, he said the Government investment of €600m, along with other significant health funding, will provide the health service with the supports to build resilience for the difficult months ahead.

He urged people to follow public health advice. He said the healthcare service needs the public support.

Mr Reid said Ireland is continuing to source and receive significant levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) and there is a strong projected supply for the winter period.

He said price reductions are expected over the coming months, due to better supply in the markets.

He said the HSE would also continue to support Irish companies.

Mary Butler

Minister of State in the Department of Health, Mary Butler, has said the Government funding of €600m in the Winter Plan demonstrates how seriously the Government views the challenges coming towards us in the winter months.

As the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, she said it is very important that the plan has strong focus on supporting these groups and the correct wraparound supports are absolutely vital to ensure that this happens.

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These include enhancing the integrated multidisciplinary older persons programme called the Integrated Care programme for older people and teams to cover 57 community health networks.

Also speaking at the HSE press briefing, Ms Butler welcomed the new 'home first' approach, which emphasises providing extensive home care packages for those with more complex needs, including people with dementia, who are also being supported through the recruitment of 10 additional dementia advisers.

She said she fully supports the aims of the Winter Plan and commended the HSE for the broad range of commitments.