Approved Costing Guidance 2020

Healthcare costing standards and collection guidance for collection year 2020.


Back to the main Approved Costing Guidance page.


Our Approved Costing Guidance is the inclusive term for the:

  • Costing Principles
  • Costing Standards
  • National Cost Collection Guidance

When reviewing the Approved Costing Guidance is it important to note that all paragraphs have equal importance, but each document will relate to different financial years. You can easily identify which financial year the document should be applied to by referencing the table on the front of each word document.

The Approved Costing Guidance published on this page supersedes all earlier versions and is mandated for all sectors with the exception of Community Providers.

The main audience for the standards is healthcare costing professionals, but they have been written with secondary audiences in mind, such as clinicians, informatics and finance colleagues. While we refer to ‘patients’ in the context of patient-level costing, we recognise that people who access mental health services prefer to be referred to as service users, clients or residents. The use of the term ‘patient’ across all sectors allows us to maintain consistency in the standards for an individual’s entire health and social care pathway.

There are three types of standard: information requirements, costing processes, costing methods.

  • Information requirements describe the information you need to collect for costing
  • Costing processes describe the costing process you should follow
  • Costing methods focus on high volume and high value services or departments.

The first two sets of standards make up the main costing process and they should be implemented in numerical order, before the costing methods. We have ordered the standards linearly but, as aspects of the costing process can happen simultaneously, where helpful we have cross-referenced to information in later standards.

The costing methods should be implemented after the information requirements and costing processes, and prioritised based on the value and volume of the service for your organisation.

All the standards are published on our website. Two accompanying technical documents contain information required to implement the standards, which are presented in Excel. Cross-references within the standards narrative referencing spreadsheets (eg Spreadsheet CP3.3) refer to the technical documents.

We have produced tools and templates to help you implement the standards. These are available to download below.

For detail on the Approved Costing Guidance – Standards on the below page can be found in the Approved Costing Guidance introduction here.

Approved Costing Guidance – standards

Integrated standards



Mental health


The Community Costing Methods can be found on the Approved Costing Guidance 2021 page.

Education and Training

Tools and templates for implementing standards

These tools and templates are non-mandated, but are advisory to ensure you can administer your costing processes successfully.

Approved Costing Guidance – collections

National cost collection guidance 2020

Volumes 4 (ambulance), 5i (mental health) and 5ii (IAPT) of the 2020 National Cost Collection guidance will be published in August 2020.

National Cost Collection: Extracts and Tools

  • Acute extract file specification – Sets out the data fields and format required by NHS Digital for the PLICS submission. This includes XML and CSV formats. New version added 29 May 2020.
  • Acute Data Validation Tool – business rules – Contains the checks performed in our data validation tool. New version added 29 May 2020.
  • Structure of XML files for submission to NHS Digital and Schema Base Elements – Sets out the structure for the XML files which will be submitted to NHS Digital. These files are targeted at software suppliers for inclusion in their costing solution (where the decision is taken to produce the XML files directly). New version added 29 May 2020.
  • Test National Cost Collection workbook v2 – Test version of the National Cost Collection workbook template for submitting costs not currently collected at patient-level and the reconciliation. Please note the version that is submitted to NHS Digital in the collection window should be downloaded from SDCS. This test version (v2) of the workbook was issued on 21 July 2020.

Voluntary collections guidance

Voluntary collections are now closed for 2019 and will be replaced throughout 2020. Please use documentation below for reference only in preparation for your 2020 mandated or voluntary submission.


Mental health and IAPT