Skip to main content

Recent Statistics

Short notes on Registry methods

Children are ascertained from multiple sources across Northern Ireland including paediatricians, neonatologists, orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, parents and includes active searches of schools, hospital in- and outpatient records and death certificates.

Children are assessed ideally at age 5 years and once validated by the Registry Paediatrician are recorded on NICPR which includes a broad description of their impairments and some basic birth information. 

Young children (under the age of 5 years) are likely to be unascertained as not all children will be diagnosed yet so data on young children must be interpreted with caution.

The following data relates to an assessment of the child's clinical presentation and abilities at age 5 years.  NICPR is essentially a cross-sectional, epidemiological survey and we do not routinely follow up the children over time.  However, we have designed separate research studies (described on this site) which are dedicated to finding out more about outcomes in the children, young people and increasingly, adults with cerebral palsy.

Some basic statistics on cerebral palsy in Northern Ireland

By December 2014 a total of 2,889 individuals born had been recorded in the NICPR.  For statistical purposes, 1870 were considered and were the children born between 1981 - 2008 who were confirmed cases and definitely included in the Register. 

By age 5 years:

  • 87% of individuals with CP are born in NI and stay in NI
  • 4% born in NI move out of the area
  • 7% have moved in from another area outside of NI
  • 7% have acquired CP occurring sometime in the post-neonatal period (28 days after birth onwards).
  • 57% of cases were born of normal birth-weight; 22% are born weighing between 1,500 - 2,499g
  • 9% are multiple births (twins, triplets…)
  • 4% have a sibling with CP
  • 57% of individuals with CP are boys

On average 55 children are newly diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Northern Ireland each year.

Livebirth prevalence of cerebral palsy for birth years 1981-2008

  • 2.29 CP cases per 1,000 livebirths (95% CIs 2.17 to 2.41)

This rate is similar across the Health & Social Care Trusts of birth:

  • Belfast Trust = 2.4
  • Southeastern Trust = 2.3
  • Northern Trust = 2.0
  • Southern Trust = 2.2
  • Western Trust = 2.2

The rate of cerebral palsy per 1,000 livebirths has remained relatively constant over time and the rate in NI is remarkably similar to other parts of the developed world.

Numbers of children living by Trust of Birth


 Table 1: Numbers of children with CP grouped by age and birth of residence, December 2015 (excludes deaths & children known to have moved out).


Health & Social Care Trust at Birth


Age by December 2015

Belfast HSCT

Southeastern HSCT

Southern HSCT

Northern HSCT

Western HSCT







07-10 yrs

37 40 38 49 23 21 208


11-13 yrs

35 32


30 23




14-16 yrs 31 25 24 50 31




17-19 yrs 35 32 30 39 31 4 177


20-22 yrs 32 31 33 37 27 5 165


23-25 yrs 38 26 26 35 31 3 158


26-28 yrs 42 31 47 51 33 3 207


 29-31 yrs 38 30 35 42 36 5 184


 32-34 yrs 40 31 26 38 44 2 181


Frequency of CP types for 5-19 year olds 

  • 40% unilateral spastic CP (i.e. hemiplegia)
  • 51% bilateral spastic CP (i.e. quadriplegia) of which 65% are leg-dominated or diplegic
  • 5% dyskinetic (dystonic/athetoid) or have mixed dyskinetic-spastic CP
  • 3% have ataxia or are unclassifiable (about 1%)


Clinical characteristics of children and young adults with CP living in NI – function and other associated impairments.

Frequency of GMFCS levels for 5-19 year olds

The Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) is classification system with 5 levels that describe general mobility and function of children and young people with CP. It particularly focuses on sitting, walking, and wheeled mobility.

 The distribution of GMFCS among children living in NI is:

  • 19% Level I
  • 43% Level II
  • 9% Level III
  • 7% Level IV
  • 22% Level V 

Mild forms of CP are more common (GMFCS Levels I to III). Up to 71% of children and young people are able to walk, most of them without the use of an aid or assistive device (e.g. walker, crutches or a stick; GMFCS Level II).

While there is some small variation in the proportion children by Trust of residence and GMFCS levels these differences are not statistically significant (p>0.05).

Arm function for 5 - 19 year olds

The distribution by arm function in children and young people with CP living in NI is:

  • 30% have no problems with arm function
  • 33% have some difficulty using their two hands together but can get dress
  • 16% are physically incapable of putting on a vest or t-shirt but can feed themselves with one or other hand
  • 21% are physically incapable of putting on a vest or t-shirt or feed themselves 

Presence of associated impairments in 5-19 year olds

 Almost half of the children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 19 have at least one other significant co-impairment in conjunction with motor impairment. 

Impairments affecting eating, drinking, swallowing:

  • 22% have problems drooling or swallowing
  • 25% have problems with feeding (although we did not systematically collect this variable) 


        41% have intellectual impairment in the IQ<70 range; of these 65% have severe impairment


       43% have problems with seizures/epilepsy (currently/or in the past)

Communication, Vision & Hearing

  • 45% have problems with communication
  • 28% have problems with vision
  • 8% have problems with hearing


Contact Information

Northern Ireland Cerebral Palsy Register
Room 1.36
Mulhouse Building
Queen’s University Belfast
Grosvenor Road
Belfast BT12 6DP

Telephone: 028 9097 1616 

Web tools

Bookmark and Share