More than 700 hospital beds across Ireland have been closed because of budget cutbacks and levels of overcrowding in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments have increased, according to a new survey.

The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) survey found that 705 hospital beds had been closed and overcrowding in A&E increased 31% in September 2009 compared to September 2007.

An increasing number of patients are being left on trolleys as a result of the bed closures and A&E overcrowding, INO said.

INO general secretary Liam Doran said that the number of bed closures show that the healthcare system is in difficulty.

“The extent of the bed closures, the impact of delayed discharges and the increasing level of A&E overcrowding demonstrate the severity of the crisis already facing our health services,” Doran said.