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 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. https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/gp-contract-guidance
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. The Board provides approximately £100 per patient annually to the GP Practice.
E.g. if a GP practice has 5000 patients on their list, they receive approximately £500,000 per year from the Health and Social Care Board to deliver general medical services to them. Approximately 70% of this funding is received regardless of whether patients turn up for appointments or not during the year. Approximately 30% is received in respect of additional and enhanced services provided to patients.
There are 336 GP Practices in Northern Ireland. A total 1722 GPs are registered on the performers list.
In the last six years, there have been 6 practice closures. Two in the Belfast area, one in the Southern area, two in the Western area and one in the Northern area (February 2018).
The Health and Social Care Board was able to ensure that patients at these GP Practices were reassigned to neighbouring practices.
The HSC Business Services Organisation has been given notice of nine GPs planning to retire by 31 March 2018.
All of the nine GPs who are 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 6 years, the Health and Social Care Board have been able to successfully facilitate 14 practice mergers across Northern Ireland. There have been eight practice mergers in the West, two in the South, two in the North and two in Belfast.
Practice mergers can have a significant number of benefits for both GPs and patients as follows: