Collection

NHS reference costs

Reference costs are the average unit cost to the NHS of providing secondary healthcare to NHS patients.

The Department has collected reference costs from NHS providers for every financial year since 1997 to 1998.

Reference costs are used to set prices for NHS-funded services in England. They also support our commitment to data transparency for the benefit of patients and the public.

Monitor is now accountable for the reference costs collection, with the Department continuing to collect reference costs on its behalf. Monitor’s strategy for costing and cost collection to inform price setting is set out in their Approve Costing Guidance.

Published reference costs

The data collected in reference costs are presented in three ways:

  • national schedules of reference costs - these show the national average units costs derived from the average unit costs of NHS provider
  • reference costs index - a measure of the relative efficiency of NHS providers
  • database of source data – publishing the data submitted by NHS providers gives a valuable source of information for benchmarking of costs and other more detailed analysis. Please note that only source data from 2008 to 2009 are currently available.

Reference costs from 1998 to 2009 are available on the National Archives.

  1. NHS reference costs 2015 to 2016

    • Research and analysis
  2. NHS reference costs 2014 to 2015

    • Research and analysis
  3. NHS reference costs 2013 to 2014

    • Policy paper
  4. NHS reference costs 2012 to 2013

    • Policy paper
  5. NHS reference costs: financial year 2011 to 2012

    • Policy paper
  6. 2010-11 reference costs publication

    • Policy paper
  7. NHS reference costs 2009-2010

    • Policy paper
  8. NHS reference costs 2009-2010  appendix: DBRC organisation-specific reference cost data

    • Policy paper

Reference costs collection guidance

The submission of reference costs by NHS providers is supported by detailed guidance published each year by the Department. Since 2013, this guidance is part of Monitor’s ‘Approved Costing Guidance’.

Published 23 January 2014
Last updated 15 December 2016 + show all updates
  1. Added NHS reference costs 2015 to 2016.
  2. Added NHS reference costs 2014 to 2015
  3. First published.