Population Characteristics and Geographic Coverage of Primary Care Facilities

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The location of General Practitioner (GP) facilities is an important aspect in the design of healthcare systems to ensure they are accessible by populations with healthcare needs. A key consideration in the facility location decision involves matching the population need for the services with the supply of healthcare resources. The literature points to several factors which may be important in the decision making process, such as deprivation, transportation, rurality, and population age.
This study uses two approaches to examine the factors associated with GP accessibility in Northern Ireland. The first uses multinomial regression to examine the factors associated with GP coverage, measured as the proportion of people who live within 1.5km road network distance from the nearest GP practice. The second focuses on the factors associated with the average travel distance to the nearest GP practice, again measured using network distance. The empirical research is carried out using population and geospatial data from Northern Ireland, across 890 Super Output Areas and 343 GP practices.
In 19% of Super Output Areas, all of the population live within 1.5km of a GP practice, whilst in 24% none of the population live within 1.5km. The regression results show that there are higher levels of population coverage in more deprived areas, smaller areas, and areas that have more elderly populations. Similarly, the average travel distance is related to deprivation, population age, and area size.
The results indicate that GP practices are located in areas with higher levels of service need, but also that care needs to be taken to ensure rural populations have sufficient access to services, whether delivered through GP practices or through alternative services where GP practices are less accessible. The methodology and results should be considered by policy makers and healthcare managers when making decisions about GP facility location and service provision.
Original languageEnglish
Article number398
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2018


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