Publication of General Pharmaceutical Service Statistics for Northern Ireland 2019/20

Date published: 25 June 2020

The HSC Business Services Organisation (BSO) has today published its first annual General Pharmaceutical Service Statistics for Northern Ireland.

The report contains information on prescription dispensing and payments in relation to community dispensing (i.e. dispensing by community pharmacies, dispensing doctors and appliance suppliers).

Information is provided at Northern Ireland level with further breakdowns at Local Government District (LGD) and Local Commissioning Group (LCG) level.

Key Points

  • At the end of 2019/20, Northern Ireland had 531 community pharmacies, a reduction of one from the previous year.
  •  At Northern Ireland level, it is estimated that over 99% of the population live within five miles of a community pharmacy, with at least 72% of the population living within one mile.
  • The number of items dispensed rose by almost 3% to 43.1 million in 2019/20 compared with the previous year. This continues an increasing trend in prescription items dispensed with a rise of over 7% over the last five years.
  • The total ingredient cost of prescription items rose by over 5% in the last year to £444.1 million.  However, unlike dispensing volumes which have continued to grow steadily, total ingredient costs have fluctuated over recent years but are now around 4% higher than they were in 2014/15.  
  •  Females accounted for almost 57% of items dispensed whilst the 45-64 age group accounted for over 30% of items.
  • Around one in four items dispensed in 2019/20 related to the Central Nervous System.
  • The number of items dispensed was around 50% higher in the most deprived areas in NI compared to the least deprived.  Conversely, the average ingredient cost per item was almost 20% higher in the least deprived areas.
  •  Northern Ireland has the highest ingredient cost per person in the UK at almost £230 per year compared to the lowest, England, which is 42% lower at £161.



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 Pharmaceutical Service 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. The data relate to BSO’s General Pharmaceutical Service payment and volumes reimbursed and have been sourced from administrative systems. It is important to note that, unless otherwise stated, figures relate to the year in which a payment was processed by BSO and this may not necessarily coincide with when prescription items were dispensed (i.e., some prescriptions from a previous year may be processed in the current year whilst, conversely, some prescriptions relating to the current year may not be processed until a later year).
  4. This publication introduces an analysis of dispensed items by area Multiple Deprivation Measure (MDM).  For ease of presentation, the information has been broken down into five MDM quintiles, each approximately containing 20% of Northern Ireland’s population.  Dispensed item information is assigned to the MDM area of where the associated patient resides.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8.  Electronic copies of the Bulletin and associated Excel tables are available free of charge from:
  9. 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:
  10. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:
  11. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt.
  12. 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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