GP Practices are independent, small businesses, often operating from their own premises. Sometimes a Practice is run either by a single GP or a number of GP Practice Partners.
GP Partners sign a contract with the Health and Social Care Board to provide general medical services to their patients. GP Partners have a responsibility for employing their own staff including doctors (sessional GPs or locums), nurses, receptionists and healthcare assistants. The contract provides a high degree of autonomy for each GP practice to make arrangements to provide essential care in the most appropriate manner. The Board monitors Practice performance to ensure that safe and high quality services are provided.
GPs are independent Practitioners and, as such, are not an employee, partner or agent of the Health and Social Care Board.
A copy of the contract between the Health and Social Care Board and GPs can be found on the following link GP contract guidance | Department of Health (health-ni.gov.uk)
Also see GP Contract – HSCB (hscni.net)
The Health and Social Care Board (as part of its contract) provides funding to GP Practices depending on the number and types of patients registered with them.
There are 321 GP Practices in Northern Ireland and a total 1932 GPs are registered on the performers list.
In the last two years, there have been 6 practice closures. Two practices closed in the Belfast area and four practices closed located in the South Eastern area.
The Health and Social Care Board was able to ensure that patients at these GP Practices were reassigned to neighbouring practices.
As of June 2021 the HSC Business Service Organisation has been given notice of eight GPs planning to retire by 31 March 2022.
Four of the GPs planning to retire are part of group practices and it is therefore the responsibility of the practices to recruit a replacement GP.
GP Mergers are when two or more practices join together to provide services.
In the last two years three separate practices in Belfast voluntarily merged with a neighbouring practice creating three large practices.
Practice mergers can have a significant number of benefits for both GPs and patients as follows:
In addition, the Board provides funding for GP Practices as follows: