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Frequently Asked Questions about GPs

  • 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.

  • What is a GP Contract?

    A copy of the contract between the Strategic Planning and Performance Group of the Department of Health (SPPG) and GPs is available on the Department of Health website.

  • 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 many GPS are there in Northern Ireland?

    There are 319 GP Practices in Northern Ireland and a total of 1959 GPs are registered on the performers list.

  • How many GP Practices are closing?

    Since October 2020, two practices closed by merging with two new practices in the South Eastern area and two practices closed by merging with one practice located in the Southern area.

    The Strategic Planning and Performance Group was able to ensure that patients at these GP Practices were reassigned to neighbouring practices.


  • How many GPs are due to retire?

    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.

  • What is a GP practice merger?

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

    Since July 2021, two separate practices in the Southern area voluntarily merged with a neighbouring practice creating one large practice.

    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    Reduction in the risk of sudden termination of GMS contract in the event of a single-handed GPs death or retirement.

  • 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 Board 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)