Understanding the health service

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.

The Department of Health has overall responsibility for health and social care services.

The Department sets priorities for a number of bodies/organisations which take forward operational aspects of Department of Health business. These bodies include the Health and Social Care Board, six Health and Social Care Trusts, a Patient and Client Council, the Public Health Agency, the Business Services Organisation (BSO) and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority. There are also five Local Commissioning Groups (LCGs) focusing on the planning and resourcing of services. The LCGs cover the same geographical area as the Health and Social Care Trusts.

The Northern Trust is one of six Trusts in Northern Ireland. HSC Trusts are the main providers of health and social care in Northern Ireland. The other five Trusts are:

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Trust
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
Southern Health and Social Care Trust
Western Health and Social Care Trust

The HSC Trusts became operational on 1 April 2007, following the Review of Public Administration. They were created from the merger of 19 former Trusts. The Northern Trust was established following the merger of three former Trusts - Causeway, Homefirst and United.

Related links
Map showing areas covered by health Trusts in Northern Ireland
Official website for health and personal services in Northern Ireland

Page last updated:20 June 2018