Councillors have agreed that there can no longer be a total reliance on fundraising to maintain the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance and that the Department of Health and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service must shoulder some of the costs.

At Tuesday's Council meeting, the DUP's Mark Buchanan proposed a motion stating: "That this Council commends the work of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland across the Fermanagh and Omagh District.

"Furthermore, this council recognises the significant public fundraising efforts required to keep the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance operational and that we, as a council, should support the promotion of this charity in line with current council policy."

However an amendment proposed by UUP Councillor Alex Baird added that the Council "believes the total reliance on fundraising to now be unacceptable for such an essential service, and therefore agrees that the Department of Health and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service should now fund much of its annual running costs to ensure the long-term provision and sustainability of the vital service".

The proposed amendment was agreed by Councillor Buchanan with the new reading receiving unanimous support.

Councillor Buchanan said the motion he brought forward is one of the most important issues to come before the Council in the past four years.

"With one of the largest rural land masses, we as a Council know only too well the important role our life saving services play in preserving life across our Council area," said Councillor Buchanan.

"I think everyone will agree the Air Ambulance is one of the greatest assets in Northern Ireland and plays a vital role in getting patients with life threatening injuries to hospital in the shortest possible time."

Councillor Buchanan pointed out that in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area alone the Air Ambulance had been deployed 5 times since August 2017 and that running costs total around £2 million a year.

Councillor Baird said no one will disagree that emergency care has been greatly bolstered by the introduction of the air ambulance.

He went on to praise the work of those who raise money for the Air Ambulance but said it was not appropriate that such an important and life-saving is so entirely reliant on public donations.

"So that’s why I have proposed my amendment. Instead of the public having to pay, it should be the Department of Health. It already pays for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service so in my mind there is no reason whatsoever as to why it should not be paying for the Air Ambulance Service also.

"I would suggest that this would be a much fairer, more sensible and appropriate way forward if we are to secure the long-term provision of this essential service."

Councillor Deehan said the money raised was a testament to the importance of the Air Ambulance however the service should be funded by the Ambulance Trust

She said the Air Ambulance should be an integral part of Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Trust and funded from the public purse.

Councillor Deehan also pointed out how this district may rely on Air Ambulance transfers if there are reconfigurations to strokes services.