GP practices from across Fermanagh and Omagh met last month to discuss the increasing challenges facing General Practice in the area and to share learning, to ensure the continued safe, effective, and responsive service to patients.

Fermanagh has been plagued with issues around GP practices, with a number of surgeries handing back their contracts including in Lisnaskea, and Brookeborough and Tempo.

Trillick and Dromore GP Practices was taken over by the Western Trust in 2022.

The South West GP Federation, which was formed in 2015 by 20 local GP practices with a common desire to work together to develop and protect GP services for patients in the area, facilitated the meeting.

Some 17 member practices, represented by 22 general practice staff, attended the evening.

A South West GP Federation spokesperson said the event "provided focused discussion with a variety of possible actions proposed to help sustain primary care in this area whilst supporting staff to deliver caring services tailored to the needs of patients, within a complex and challenging work environment".

They continued: "The South West GP Federation felt it was important for practices to meet to discuss ways of supporting each other through this challenging period, with the aim of stabilising practices and preserving primary care services for all patients in the area."

Statistics presented at the event displayed the issues facing local GP practices, including the area having the smallest number of GPs to 100,000 patients in comparison to other areas of Northern Ireland.

The meeting also heard that there are more older GPs in the area than elsewhere, with 35 per cent close to retirement; that three practices in the area have returned their contracts since April, 2022; and that five practices are currently noted as officially being in crisis.

Member practices will now begin to explore suggested initiatives with a view to their implementation for the benefit of patients.