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.

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