Health and social care in Northern Ireland

In England, Scotland and Wales, the National Health Service (NHS) provides health care services while local councils provide social care services. In Northern Ireland these services are combined under what is known as Health and Social Care (HSC). Like the NHS the service is free at the point of delivery.

Department of Health

In Northern Ireland the Department of Health has overall responsibility for health and social care services.  It is one of nine Northern Ireland Executive Departments.

Department of Health

In terms of commissioning and providing services, the Department of Health discharges this duty to the Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency and a number of other Health and Social Care (HSC) bodies including five trusts.  Each has a specific functions on its behalf.

All these HSC bodies are accountable to the Department which in turn is accountable, through the Minister, to the Assembly for the manner in which this duty is performed.

Health and Social Care Board

The Health and Social Care Board is responsible for commissioning services, managing resources and performance improvement.  The Board also manages contracts for family health services provided by GPs, dentists, opticians and community pharmacists. These are all services not provided by health and social care trusts.

Local Commissioning Groups

Local Commissioning Groups are aligned to the boundaries of the five health and social care trusts – the Belfast LCG; Northern LCG; South Eastern LCG; Southern LCG; and Western LCG.  Within the devolved authority of the HSC Board, the five LCGs are responsible for the commissioning of health and social care by addressing the care needs of their local population.  These groups also have responsibility for assessing health and social care needs, planning health and social care to meet current needs, and securing the delivery of health and social care to meet assessed needs.

The Northern Local Commissioning Group (LCG) is a committee of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) which covers the same geographical area as the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Northern Local Commissionnig Group

Health and Social Care Trusts

Trusts are the main providers of health and social care services to the public, as commissioned by the regional Health and Social Care Board.  There are six health and social care trusts operating in Northern Ireland:

Each Trust manages its own staff and services and controls its own budget.

Belfast Trust

Northern Trust

South Eastern Trust

Southern Trust

Western Trust

NI Ambulance Trust  (covers all of Northern Ireland)

Further information

Public Health Agency
Regional organisation for health protection and health and social welbeing improvement.

Healthcare Gateway for Northern Ireland
Links to Health and Social Care Servicesin Northern Ireland

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