Cost collections to go ahead, but later in the year

by Steve Brown

06 April 2020

The National Cost Collection (NCC) has been postponed until later in the year as a result of the service’s current focus on responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter over the weekend, Helen Laing, deputy director of costing at NHS England and NHS Improvement said that NHS providers would not be asked to collect data in June. ‘Any collection will be later in the year and would involve a single, longer collection window with no resubmissions,’ she said.Calculator

There had been some speculation around the NHS that the costing collection for 2019/20 would be scrapped altogether.

However, the two national bodies have underlined that it is important that costs continue to be collected. ‘Our executive team have indicated that the NCC will be a vital data asset for decision making following the pandemic,’ Ms Laing added.

The postponed collection would not change in size or complexity, but it is hoped that the extended timetable will relieve pressure on costing practitioners.

The HFMA  understands that many finance practitioners are now working from home and some costing practitioners have already been reallocated to non-costing work – for example supporting payment processes. While some costing practitioners will be able to access costing systems remotely, there will understandably be no opportunity for clinical engagement, seen as vital to the compilation of robust costs.

The letter has little to say about the next steps in the Costing Transformation Programme, which aims to extend patient-level costing across all English providers. Ambulance trusts and mental health providers were due to start submitting patient-level costs this summer. Mental health trusts have expressed concerns about their ability to comply with the timetable and there have been more widespread calls for costing guidance in future years covering all sectors to be simplified and focus on the key material costs.

However the letter does not suggest any changes to the scope of the 2019/20 collection. A dry-run exercise – in which trusts and system suppliers test the collection process and a data validation tool – is continuing.

Work is being undertaken to ascertain if any adjustments are needed to guidance to enable additional transactions related to Covid-19 to be accurately captured. And in terms of development of the costing standards, costing expert working groups have been shunted until later in the year, with the plan of still updating documentation for next year.

The letter acknowledged that the current situation placed the costing community under ‘enormous pressure’. ‘We will continue to review our response to the emergency as new developments emerge,’ it said.