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 2018/19 national cost collection data (reference costs) and PLICS data.  

The documentation is brought together by collection year:

  • Collection year 2019 (ie 2018/19 financial year data, collected in 2019)
  • Collection year 2020 (ie 2019/20 financial year data, collected in 2020. This is being published in 2019 to aid preparation for the mandatory 2020 collections.) 

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 designated acute providers for the collection year 2019 (data from 2018/19) for admitted patient care (APC), outpatients (OP) and A&E services.

From collection year 2020, ambulance and mental health patient-level collections become mandatory. We will continue to work to extend patient-level costing to community providers.

Approved Costing Guidance

Introduction to the Approved Costing Guidance 2019 PDF, 251.9 KB

Outlines how to comply with the guidance, cost collections for 2018/19 data, oversight and the provider licence and the costing assurance programme.

The costing principles PDF, 617.1 KB

Outlines the seven costing principles that all costing activity should follow.

Approved Costing Guidance: Glossary (effective from 2018/19) PDF, 407.2 KB

Describes terminology used in the Approved Costing Guidance (effective from 2018/19)

We are considering our approach to independent sector providers of NHS activity but will not be collecting cost data from them in 2019. If you have any questions, please contact

Update: 2019 cost collections

Following consultations with NHS providers, suppliers and arm’s length bodies, we have taken a number of decisions regarding the implementation of patient-level costing (PLICS) and cost collections for 2019 and beyond. This note provides information on decisions made for the following areas:

  • 2019 cost collection scope 
  • 2019 cost collection timetable
  • Education & training
  • Release of key documents

2019 cost collections update PDF, 402.7 KB

Note of decisions about the 2019 cost collections

You said, we did

Consultation Feedback Responses 2019 XLSX, 696.6 KB

Consultation Feedback Responses 2019

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