Latest: Medical expert says hospitals must install prefabs to counter overcrowding crisis

Update - 1.43pm: There is a call for prefabs or modular units for Hospital Emergency Departments to ease the overcrowding crisis.

There were 649 patients on trolleys this morning, down from yesterday’s record high of 714.

While extra beds have been opened to cope with the surge, medics in the field say extra permanent beds are needed.

President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Emily O’Connor says the only way to avoid a repeat of the crisis is more permanent beds.

She said: "There is absolutely no way we are going to do a tender process and commission and build new wards of concrete before next winter.

"If we want to have any hope of putting 500 to 1,000 beds into the system, we're talking about modular builds.

"I'm sorry for that but that is where we are. We said this about 15-16 months ago to the Department of Health. It didn't happen, please make it happen for next year."

10.23am: Nearly 650 people on hospital trolleys, home care 'lacks carers' to deal with discharged patients

There are almost 650 patients awaiting hospital beds around the country today.

It shows a fall of 65 on yesterday's figures.

University Hospital Limerick still has the most on trolleys and overflow wards with 58, while there are 56 awaiting admittance at Cork University Hospital.

Overall, 472 people are on hospital trolleys today, while overflow wards are accommodating 177 patients around the country.

Yesterday, the Health Minister Simon Harris announced an extra €5m for the HSE to spend on home care packages.

CEO of Homecare Direct, Michael Harty, says speeding up the discharge of patients is sensible, but providers have too little capacity.

He said: "While the €5m the Minister has announced is welcome, I do feel it's a sort of a PR exercise because what's going to happen in reality is that home care resources are going to be diverted from people who need home care packages, but are out of hospital, to people who are in hospital and need to be discharged.

"Because of the capacities within home care, because of the fact we are lacking carers, it is just resources diverted from elsewhere."

6.45am: Hospitals braced for another busy day as overcrowding reaches new high

Hospitals are bracing themselves for another busy day, following record trolley numbers yesterday.

The latest high follows a previous record of 677 on trolleys in January.

714 people were waiting for a hospital bed on trolleys and in wards yesterday morning - a new all-time high.

The pressure has led to the HSE cancelling all non-urgent surgeries.

The Health Minister Simon Harris also announced €5m in extra spending to speed up the discharge of patients.

Last night, Tallaght University Hospital said it was struggling with a very high number of emergency cases.

It has asked those with minor injuries or illnesses to go to a GP first.

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