Publication of FPS General Medical Services for Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2019/20

Date published: 19 June 2020

The Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) has today published its General Medical Services for Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2019/20.

Statement on HMS Caroline
Statement on HMS Caroline

The report contains high level summary information in relation to General Practitioners, GP Practices and Registered Patients including registration activity and payments processed by BSO towards the overall cost of GP Services in Northern Ireland. Information is provided at NI level with further breakdowns presented at both Local Commissioning Group (LCG) and Local Government District (LGD) level. A number of UK comparisons are also included.

The publication is available on the Business Services Organisation’s website at:

 Key Points

 The key points from the 2019/20 Report are:

 General Medical Services

  • There were 323 active GP practices in Northern Ireland at 31st March 2020, an 8% reduction on 2014 when the number stood at 350.  As the number of practices has decreased, the average number of registered patients per practice has increased from 5,500 in 2014 to 6,200 in 2020, a rise of almost 13%.
  • At LCG (Health Trust) level, Western has shown the largest proportionate decrease in GP Practices between 2014 and 2020 (16%), falling from 57 to 48.  The smallest proportionate decrease during this period is in the Southern Trust (4%), where the number reduced from 76 to 73.
  • Despite the reduction in GP Practices, the number of GPs (excluding locums) has increased by 16% to 1,364 since 2014.  Of these, over half (58%) are female, a notable shift in gender profile since 2014 when the majority (54%) were male.  It is important to note that figures presented for GPs are headcount rather than full-time equivalent so take no account of differences in hours worked or changes to practitioner working patterns over time.
  • There were 2,003,000 individuals registered with a GP practice at 31st March 2020. The LGD with the largest patient population registered to practices within its area was Belfast (431,000) while Lisburn and Castlereagh had the lowest number of registered patients (118,000).
  • During the 2019/20 financial year, there were just over 50,000 new (first time) patients registered to and approximately 40,000 patient registrations deducted from the index of registered patients.
  • Of the new (first time) patients registered in Northern Ireland during 2019/20, 28% were non-UK nationals.  This proportion varied by LGD from 42% in Belfast being newly registered non-UK nationals compared to 15% in Ards & North Down.
  • BSO processed £285.8m of payments towards the overall cost of GP services in Northern Ireland. The average BSO payment processed per registered patient was £143, an increase of £13 per patient on the previous year.
  • The overwhelming majority of registered patients (98%) live within 5 miles of a primary GP practice. In some of the more urban LGDs (Belfast, Antrim & Newtownabbey, Lisburn & Castlereagh and Ards & North Down) at least 92% of registered patients live within 3 miles of a GP practice.
  • Patients from the most deprived (at 0.8 miles on average) and least deprived (at 0.9 miles on average) areas lived closest to a Primary GP Practice.  This is likely a function of the often urban location of GP Practices which are typically characterised by areas of high and low deprivation.
  • For 2018/19, Northern Ireland (16.4) and Scotland (16.5) compare favourably to both England (11.7) and Wales (13.4) in terms of the number of GP Practices per 100,000 registered patients.  It should be noted, however, that GP Practices will vary in size in terms of the number of GPs attached to each.
  • At 67.0, Northern Ireland had more GPs (headcount) per 100,000 registered patients than Wales (63.0) and England (57.9) but fewer than Scotland (77.3) in 2018/19.  As figures are headcount, they do not take account of any different part-time/full-time working patterns which may exist between countries.


Notes to editors: 

  1. This is the first year that separate reports have been released for each of the main Family Practitioner Services (FPS) service areas, replacing the FPS compendium published in each of the last two years. This report was produced by the Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) which was specified as an Official Statistics producer body under the Official Statistics Order (Northern Ireland) 2012. It provides the definitive source of figures on BSO FPS General Medical Services activity and finalises the provisional quarterly figures which have been released over the course of 2019/20.
  2. Family Practitioner Services (FPS) is responsible for annual payments in excess of £870 million to primary care contractors including GP Practices, Dentists, Opticians and Community Pharmacists on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).
  3. Primary care statistics on the number of General Practitioners are taken from lists of performers registered to provide these services. The lists maintained by BSO provide a headcount rather than full-time equivalent figures so take no account of differences in hours worked or changes to practitioner working patterns over time.
  4. GP Practice characteristics vary in terms of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) number of GPs assigned to a practice, number of sites a practice operates from, and number of patients registered to a practice.  In cases where a GP Practice is split over more than one site, it is only counted as one practice and data presented, including average patient counts per practice and distance to nearest practice, are based on the Primary Practice.
  5. GP Registered Patient counts by Local Commissioning Group (Health Trust) and Local Government District are based on the location of the practice the patient is registered to as opposed to the patient’s home address.  There are differences between the figures for GP Registered Patients and residential population. At 30th June 2019 the number of individuals on the index of registered patients was approximately 5% higher than the June 2019 Northern Ireland mid-year population estimate.  This discrepancy can arise from a number of factors, for example, time lags in removing patients from GP lists following death or emigration, Cross Border Workers registered with a Northern Ireland GP etc.
  6. BSO Payment towards GP Services presented in this report refers to the payments that BSO has processed on behalf of Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) towards the overall cost of GP Services in Northern Ireland. This expenditure relates to payments processed in a given year and not the cost of the service provided in that year.  It is important to note that, unless otherwise stated, figures relate to the year in which a payment claim was processed by BSO and this may not necessarily coincide with when the actual activity took place (i.e., some claims from a previous year may be processed in the current year whilst, conversely, some claims relating to activity in the current year may not be processed until a later year).
  7. Whilst a number of UK comparisons have been included in the report, there can be important differences in how services are delivered between countries that can impact on the figures. The relative size of the private sector in the delivery of primary care services within each country will be a particularly important factor in this regard and should be borne in mind when interpreting any inter-country differences in HSC activity levels.
  8. The report itself presents high level summary information with all of the detailed data tables consigned to the accompanying Excel appendices. The figures are prepared and released by independent NISRA statisticians working within BSO’s FPS Information Unit.
  9. Quarterly updates for 2020/21, for key report tables, will be released on a provisional basis on the FPS section of the BSO website These will be added to the historic quarterly series. The timetable for the release of the quarterly updates will also be published on the BSO website and all publications, both quarterly and annual, will be formally announced on the UK.Gov release calendar
  10.   Electronic copies of the Bulletin and associated Excel tables are available free of charge from:
Official Statistics
This is an Official Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code of Practice at:

11.  For further information please contact:

Information Unit

Family Practitioner Services

Business Services Organisation

2 Franklin Street

Belfast BT2 8DQ

12. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:

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14. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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