Review Paper 6

Unit cost data for England: A note on Reference Costs data and methodology

Lucy Stokes (NIESR)



Reference Costs data were first collected in England in 1997/98, following a requirement in the 1997 White Paper “The New NHS” to collect detailed cost information and produce and publish unit costs. Since then Reference Costs have been collected and published on an annual basis, with the most recent data currently relating to 2008/09.

The original purpose of the reference cost data was largely to enable comparison of the financial performance of NHS organisations. Since they were first introduced, their use has extended considerably so that they are now also used in determining the allocation of funds to Primary Care Trusts, developing the national tariff, productivity analyses and compilation of programme budgeting data (Department of Health, 2010).

Reference costs provide the average cost to the NHS of providing a defined service in a given financial year. Reference Costs publications include not only data on unit costs but also levels of activity and average length of stay. The National Schedule of Reference Costs contains the average unit costs for a range of treatments and procedures, covering services provided in hospitals, the community, and other settings.  ..........[CONT in paper]



Unit cost data for England: A note on Reference Costs data and methodology

Paper published on private website March 2011, will be released onto public website May 2011


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