Approved Costing Guidance

The Approved Costing Guidance forms a co-ordinated approach to patient-level costing (known as PLICS), the national cost collections and the costing assurance programme.


Costing standards and collection guidance are published by collection year:

Why is costing important?

Ben Dyson, Executive Director of Strategy at NHS Improvement, explains why patient-level costing is at the heart of work to successfully integrate healthcare services.

Mandating patient-level costing for NHS community services

NHS England and NHS Improvement proposes to mandate NHS trusts and foundation trusts providing community services to record and report patient-level cost data for all relevant activity from the beginning of the 2021/22 financial year, with the first collection in 2022, and to stop collecting reference costs after the financial year 2020/21.

We have published a consultation, and accompanying Impact Assessment, which invites stakeholders to respond to this proposal. We plan to publish our response to the issues raised and expect to make a final decision on the proposal in February 2021. We will publish our decision on this website.

The consultation period will run from Thursday 17 December 2020 to Friday 29 January 2021. If you would like to take part in the consultation please email us at, citing Community Mandation Consultation.

What is the Approved Costing Guidance?

The Approved Costing Guidance comprises documentation detailing the costing standards to be used by providers of NHS services and collection guidance for submitting 2019/20 national cost collection data.

The documentation is brought together by collection year:

The guidance also provides the framework on which the costing assurance programme will be based.

Reference costs used to be mandatory for all providers of NHS services.

Following consultation, the patient-level cost collection will be mandatory for the collection year 2020 (data from 2019/20) for:

  • Acute providers: admitted patient care, non-admitted patient care, emergency care (A&E), adult critical care, cystic fibrosis, unbundled imaging, high cost drugs and high costs devices
  • Ambulance providers: 999 services
  • Mental health providers: provider spells and care contacts

We will continue to work to extend patient-level costing to community providers.

Approved Costing Guidance

  • Approved Costing Guidance 2020 – Introduction – Outlines how we ask NHS providers to use the costing standards in the financial year 2020/21 for those mandated for PLICS, and for financial year 2019/20 for those submitting voluntary PLICS. In addition, it explains how to use the collection guidance to submit cost data in 2020 (for financial year 2019/20).
  • The costing principles – Outlines the seven costing principles that all costing activity should follow.
  • Approved Costing Guidance: Costing Glossary 2020 – A resource that defines costing terminology used in the Approved Costing Guidance and supporting documentation.

Minimum Software Requirements

The minimum software requirements outline the needs for a patient-level costing system. They have been updated to align with the 2020 standards.

We are considering our approach to independent sector providers of NHS activity but will not be collecting cost data from them in 2020. If you have any questions, please contact

You said, we did

Responses from the Approved Costing Guidance review and feedback exercise will be published here in Spring 2020.

Other resources