Publication of FPS General Medical Services for Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2023/24

Date published: 06 June 2024

The Health and Social Care’s Business Services Organisation has today published its General Medical Services for Northern Ireland, Annual Statistics 2023/24.

This Accredited Official 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:

General Medical Services Statistics - Business Services Organisation (BSO) Website (hscni.net)

Key Points

The key points from the 2023/24 Report are:

General Medical Services

  • There were 312 active GP practices in Northern Ireland at 31st March 2024. This is a reduction of 5 practices since 2023 and a reduction of 38 (11%) since 2014.  As the number of practices has decreased and the total number of registered patients has increased, the average number of registered patients per practice has increased, by around one-fifth, from 5,500 to 6,586 in the same time period.
  • At LCG (Health Trust) level, Western had the largest proportionate decrease in GP practices between 2014 and 2024 (18%). The smallest decrease in GP practices during this period is in the Southern LCG (7%).
  • Despite the reduction in GP Practices, the number of GPs (excluding locums) has increased by 23% to 1,454 since 2014.  Of these, six in ten (60%) 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 2,055,000 individuals registered with a GP practice at 31st March 2024. The LGD with the largest patient population was Belfast (439,000) while Lisburn and Castlereagh had the lowest number of registered patients (123,000).
  • During the 2023/24 financial year, there were approximately 52,000 new (first time) patients registered to, and 41,000 patients transferred between, Northern Ireland GP Practices.  The equivalent figures for 2022/23 were 54,000 new patients and 39,000 transfers.
  • Of the new (first time) patients registered in Northern Ireland during 2023/24, approximately one quarter (26%) were non-UK nationals.  This proportion of non-UK nationals ranged from over one third (35%) in the Belfast LGD to less than one fifth (17%) in Lisburn and Castlereagh.
  • During 2023/24, BSO processed £347m 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 £6 per patient, or 4%, since 2022/2023 and over one-third (36%) more than in 2017/18 when the figure stood at £124.
  • The overwhelming majority of registered patients (98%) 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.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This is the fifth 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 2023/24.
  1. These official statistics were independently reviewed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) in May 2022. They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics and should be labelled ‘accredited official statistics’. All accredited official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics. The OSR 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.
  1. 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 Strategic Planning and Performance Group of the Department of Health.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.  Figures presented are as at 31st March and include only those practices which will be open on 1st April.
  1. 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 2022, the number of individuals on the index of registered patients was almost 6% higher than the 2022 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.
  1. 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.  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).
  1. 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.
  1. The report itself presents high level summary information in a web-based format with chart data easily downloadable. Further detailed data tables are consigned to the accompanying Excel appendices. The figures are prepared and released by independent NISRA statisticians working within BSO’s FPS Information Unit.
  1. Quarterly updates for 2024/25, for key report tables, will be released on a provisional basis on the FPS section of the BSO website: General Medical Services Statistics - Business Services Organisation (BSO) Website (hscni.net). 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 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements
  1. Electronic copies of the Bulletin and associated Excel tables are available free of charge from:

General Medical Services Statistics - Business Services Organisation (BSO) Website (hscni.net)

Accredited Official Statistics

These are Accredited Official Statistics and therefore comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for StatisticsAccredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

Further Information

For further information please contact:

Information Unit
Family Practitioner Services
Business Services Organisation
2 Franklin Street
Belfast BT2 8DQ
 

  1. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.
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  1. 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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