Publication of FPS General Medical Services For Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2021/22

Date published: 28 June 2022

The Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation has today published its General Medical Services for Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2021/22.

This National Statistics report contains high level summary information on activity and payments in relation to General Practitioners (GPs), GP Practices and Registered Patients. Information is provided at NI level with further breakdowns presented at Local Commissioning Group (LCG), Local Government District (LGD) and GP Federation 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 2021/22 Report are:

General Medical Services

  • There were 319 active GP practices in Northern Ireland at 31st March 2022, a fall of just under 9% compared to the 350 active in 2014.  As the number of practices has decreased, the average number of registered patients per practice has increased, by around 15%, from 5,500 to 6,340 in the same time period.
  • At LCG (Health Trust) level, Western has shown the largest proportionate decrease in GP Practices between 2014 and 2022 (16%).  The smallest proportionate decrease during this period was in the Northern Trust area (5%).
  • Despite the reduction in GP Practices, the number of GPs (excluding locums) has increased by 20% to 1,419 since 2014.  Of these, almost six in ten (59%) 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 2,022,000 individuals registered with a GP practice at 31st March 2022. The LGD with the largest patient population was Belfast (432,000) while Lisburn and Castlereagh had the lowest number of registered patients (120,000).
  • During the 2021/22 financial year, there were approximately 52,500 new (first time) patients registered to, and almost 39,000 patients transferred between, Northern Ireland GP Practices - largely in line with pre-pandemic activity levels.  The equivalent figures for 2020/21 were 44,000 new patients and 29,000 transfers with Covid-19 contributing to the lower numbers.
  • Of the new (first time) patients registered in Northern Ireland during 2021/22, 30% were non-UK nationals.  This proportion varied by LGD from 49% in Belfast being non-UK nationals compared to 12% in Causeway Coast and Glens.
  • During 2021/22, BSO processed £342.7m of payments towards the overall cost of GP services in Northern Ireland. The average BSO payment processed per registered patient was £169, an increase of £11 per patient since 2020/2021.
  • A large proportion of registered patients (97%) live within 5 miles of a 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.
  • At UK level, Scotland has the highest number of GPs (headcount) per 100,000 registered population (78.5) followed by Northern Ireland (70.2).  This compares to 61.4 GPs per 100,000 registered population in Wales and 58.0 in England.  Again, this takes no account of any inter-country differences in working patterns.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This is the third year that General Medical Services Statistics for Northern Ireland has been released as a standalone report.  This information was previously included as part of the FPS compendiums published in 2017/18 and 2018/19. 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 2021/22.
  2. The UK Statistics Authority designated these statistics as National Statistics on 11 May 2022. National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. All official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics. They are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the Authority’s regulatory arm. The Authority considers whether the statistics meet the highest standards of Code compliance, including the value they add to public decisions and debate. These statistics were considered as part of a wider assessment of the BSO Family Practitioner Services statistics.
  3. Family Practitioner Services (FPS) is responsible for annual payments to primary care contractors including GP Practices, Dentists, Opticians and Community Pharmacists on behalf of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB). In 21/22 this figure was just under £950 million, and included additional support to contractors related to the covid-19 pandemic.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. GP Registered Patient counts by Local Commissioning Group (Health Trust), Local Government District and GP Federation 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 March 2021, the number of individuals on the index of registered patients was approximately 5.5% higher than the Northern Ireland population in the same month, as measured by the 2021 Census.  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, or registered patients not completing the 2021 Census.
  7. BSO Payment towards GP Services presented in this report refers to the payments that BSO has processed on behalf of the Department of Health Strategic Planning and Performance Group 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).
  8. 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, as will hours worked, so care needs to be taken when interpreting any inter-country differences in HSC activity levels.
  9. 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.
  10. Quarterly updates for 2022/23, 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 GOV.UK release calendar
  11. Electronic copies of the Bulletin and associated Excel tables are available free of charge from:
  12. National Statistics: This is a National Statistics publication and therefore follows the Code of Practice for Statistics.  You can find further information about the Code of Practice at:
  13. For further information please contact:
    Information Unit
    Family Practitioner Services
    Business Services Organisation
    2 Franklin Street
    Belfast BT2 8DQ
  14. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email
  15. Follow us on Twitter  @healthdpt  
  16. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only 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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