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Frequently Asked Questions about GPs

  • What is a GP Contract?

    GPs are not directly employed by the HSC but are contracted by it to provide medical services to their patients. The contract defines essential, additional, and enhanced services.

    Find out more about the GP Contract.

  • What happens when a GP hands back a contract?

    When a contract is handed back, the Department of Health will write to patients of the practice to let them know and to reassure them that they do not need to do anything different.

    The Department of Health has between three to six months to advertise the contract, interview potential applicants and appoint the successful candidate.

    When a successful candidate has been appointed, the Department of Health will write to the patients to let them know who their new GP contractor is.


  • When a contract is handed back, will the GP practice close?

    No, the GP who holds a contract with the Department of Health to deliver GP services is handing back the contract.

    The Department of Health will now look for another contractor to take over this service and continue providing GP services to patients of the practice.

  • When a GP contract is handed back, should patients change GPs and register with another GP practice?

    Please don’t do this because the GP has handed back the contract. Changing practices requires a lot of administrative work for GP practices. If many patients start doing this all at once, it creates a lot of work for practice staff and can impact on the important service of delivering GP services.

    In order to ensure stability for all GP practices, the Department of Health may temporarily suspend the ability to change GP practices. This will only be a temporary move.

  • What happens if a contractor cannot be found to take over a practice after a contract is handed back?

    The Department of Health works extensively to ensure continuation of GP services for local communities across Northern Ireland.

    In previous similar situations, solutions have been found and contract holders have been identified and appointed.

    Sometimes these contractors are other GPs, GP practices, a local health and social care trust or a GP Federation.

  • What is a GP practice merger?

    GP Mergers are when two or more practices join together to provide services.

    Practice mergers can have a significant number of benefits for both GPs and patients as follows:

    o    Increased capacity and ability to provide a broader range of services (such as enhanced services)

    o    Wider skill mix

    o    More partners to share workload and absences

    o    Reduces the risk of sudden termination of the GMS contract in the event of a single-handed GP’s death or retirement.

  • Who employs GPs?

    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 Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) 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 SPPG 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 SPPG.

  • Who pays GPs?

    The SPPG (as part of its contract) provides funding to GP Practices depending on the number and types of patients registered with them.

  • How much does a GP get paid?
    • GP Practice partners decide how much they earn following payment of their expenses.
    • In Northern Ireland, the average salary for a GP Partner (one who owns a GP Practice with other Partners) is around  £92,300 (2018/2019).
    • Source: 4. Northern Ireland – NHS Digital
    • Source:
    • A salaried GP (employed by GP Partner) earns between £59,660 and £90,027 (2019/2020). The exact salary for all GPs is a matter of negotiation between the salaried GP and the employer.
    • A locum GP (hired as and when required by a Practice) earns on average £200 per session (1 session = 4 hours)

    In addition, the SPPG provides funding for GP Practices as follows:

    • Practice Partners full superannuation contributions
    • IT equipment and support services to each practice
    • Rent and Rates
    • Clinical Waste
    • Consumables
    • Reimbursement for locum cover for sickness and maternity leave (where applicable)