Maple Healthcare have sought to clarify that instead of a change in management what they are seeking with the Department of Health is a change in "employment and contractor status".

In a letter to the press Maple Healthcare said they understood the "anxiety and uncertainty caused by media reports over the weekend outlining a 'potential collapse' of our practice".

It comes following reports last weekend that the GP practice was at risk of closure after it handed back its contract to the Department of Health.

"We would like to reassure all our staff and patients that we are continuing to provide GP care and services and we remain committed to the community in Lisnaskea, Newtownbutler and Rosslea.

"Due to upcoming changes in the partnership profile of Maple Healthcare and the failure to recruit sufficient new partners, the remaining partners are exploring with the Department of Health how GP services can continue to be delivered locally over the years ahead."

Maple Healthcare say the current contractual model has become increasingly difficult to deliver and they are looking at other options.

"We would like to stress that this is likely to be a contractual change and transition which will release our doctors from administrative and business tasks resulting in more time to devote to patient care. We would like to clarify that rather than a 'change in management' which was erroneously reported over the weekend, what we seek is a change in employment and contractor status."

They expect all employees and affiliated staff to continue to work in Lisnaskea and Newtownbutler and the remaining partners will continue to deliver clinical services within a multidisciplinary team.

"We do not anticipate that the coming changes will diminish the range of clinical services provided in our locality. Furthermore, there is no reason why the exciting new Health and Care Centre planned for Lisnaskea will in any way be adversely affected.

"Our team in Lisnaskea will continue to advocate for high quality services within the area and further recruitment to build on our current team."

The statement said the process of transfer of ownership is likely to take up to six months to complete and management are urging patients to remain registered with the GP practice until the process is complete.

Management also said they were disappointed at the sharing of confidential information with the press before they spoke to staff saying it had been "extremely distressing".

The Department of Health said they will begin a recruitment process to put the new arrangement in place to deliver GP services.

Sinn Féin MLA Áine Murphy has called on the Department of Health and Western Trust to ensure that a permanent solution is found for patients and families of Maple Healthcare GP practice in Lisnaskea.

“The current situation at the Maple Healthcare GP practice is deeply concerning and needs an urgent solution from the Department of Health and Western Trust with the contract set to end in six months.

“This is one of the biggest GP practices in the north and is responsible for the care of around 15,000 people. It must be protected to ensure families in Lisnaskea, Rosslea, Newtownbutler and surrounding areas have access to a GP.

“This issue is a priority for me, and I will continue working hard to ensure services at Maple Healthcare GP practice are protected. I have written to the Department of Health and the Western Trust urging them to ensure that a long-term sustainable outcome is sought for patients and families as soon as possible."

Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington has told the Western Trust that the Maple GP practice in Lisnaskea is too big to fail.

“The revelation that Lisnaskea GP Practice could be facing closure next year has sent a shockwave through the local community," he said.

"In my opinion however given the sheer size of the practice, along with the fact that it now covers such a large geographic area, it is simply too big to be allowed to fail.

“By that I mean the Western Health and Social Care Trust should be moving immediately to reassure patients and staff that if a new contract holder cannot be found that it will intervene to take over the responsibility for the practice."

Independent Councillor Eamon Keenan said the people "in Lisnaskea and the surrounding areas are very confused, concerned and anxious at the recent announcements by both the media and the Maple Group with regards GP provision in our area".

He said there are questions that need clarified following the latest revelations and he will be asking for a meeting of Maple Healthcare, the Department of Health, the Trust with the Council and the local Community Health Committee so as to clear up any concerns that have arisen.