Reference costs


Reference costs are the average unit cost to the NHS of providing defined services to NHS patients in England in a given financial year. They show how NHS providers spend money to provide healthcare to patients.

NHS providers submit reference costs annually. The costs are used to inform a number of work streams including the Model Hospital, the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme and national tariff prices. They are a key source of information about the cost of NHS services. 

Previous years'reference costs were published by the Department of Health see NHS reference costs

2016/17 reference cost data

The 2016/17 reference cost data is presented in four ways: 

  • the national schedules of reference costs 
  • the reference cost index 
  • the reconciliation statement 
  •  a database of source data 

We have also produced a short document of highlights and analysis and a guide to using the reference cost data.

Introduction and data spreadsheets

Reference costs 2016/17: highlights, analysis and introduction to the data PDF, 218.2 KB

This document shows highlights, analysis and an introduction to the 2016-17 data.

National schedule of reference costs 1 XLSX, 3.7 MB

The main schedule, showing data for the whole range of services provided by provider, including admitted patient care on a finished consultant episode (FCE) basis.

National schedule of reference costs 2 XLSX, 600.2 KB

Contracted-out services, showing the data for sub-contracted services.

The reference cost index (RCI) XLSX, 185.7 KB

The Reference Cost Index (RCI) is a measure of the relative cost difference between NHS providers.

Reference Cost Index (RCI) by department and service code XLSX, 9.1 MB

A more granular view of the Reference Cost Index (RCI) by department and service code

The reconciliation statement XLSX, 398.9 KB

Shows the adjustments made to get from provider audited financial accounts to their total reference costs.

2016/17 Reference cost data files

Reference cost data is held in large csv files and should be accessed using MS Access or other database software.

User guide: reference costs 2016/17 PDF, 521.9 KB

This document gives advice on how to use the data contained in the three zip files below.

Organisation level source data part 1 ZIP, 32.7 MB

Unadjusted data as submitted by NHS providers in England.

Organisation level source data part 2 ZIP, 49.3 MB

Market forces factor (MFF) adjusted data.

Organisation level source data part 3 ZIP, 280.3 KB

Remaining organisational source level data and reference cost survey responses

Help and support

If you have any queries on this project or costing in general please email to

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