In 2020, we fully assessed the NHS Business Service Authority’s (NHSBSA) Prescription Cost Analysis (PCA): England statistics against the Code of Practice for Statistics. NHSBSA are a new official statistics producer and this assessment was prompted due to a change in publication ownership from NHS Digital to NHSBSA.

Key Findings

The PCA is a valued, long-standing and trusted source of information used by government departments, the pharmaceutical industry, academics and professional bodies. The statistics enable users to understand the cost and demand for prescription items (drugs, appliances or dressings) in England.

The main focus of our requirements is around improving the public value of the statistics to meet the needs of users through a number of ways. Encouragingly, the team at NHSBSA has a number of user engagement activities planned to enhance and develop its understanding of the uses and users of the PCA. As part of this, we expect to see collaboration with pharmaceutical experts and clinicians to improve the level of insight, liaison with statisticians in the devolved administrations to improve the comparability and coherence of PCA across the UK and improve explanation and signposting between existing PCA data sources at NHSBSA.

The statistics are robust, with an enhanced level of quality assurance. NHSBSA have plans to revise and consult on the methods used to produce the PCA. We recommend that they collaborate with other experts in the UK to enhance the comparability and coherence of the statistics.

Finally, as a new official statistics producer, the NHSBSA has to improve some elements of trustworthiness to demonstrate full compliance with the Code. More regular contact with the Head of Profession at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will ensure that the Lead Official at NHSBSA is appropriately supported in their role. There were also wider concerns raised by users around the clarity of the process to request data held by NHSBSA. The NHSBSA should ensure that the process is clearly defined and understood by users. FoI requests should also be reviewed periodically with a view of publishing more routine data.


The PCA statistics can maintain National Statistics designation once we have confirmed that the improvements outlined in the six requirements set out in the report have been made. NHSBSA have committed to publish an action plan in November 2020, setting out how they plan to meet each of our requirements. They will report back to us by the end of February 2021.

Related Links:

Ed Humpherson to Michael Cole: Assessment of Prescription Cost Analysis: England statistics

Nina Monckton to Ed Humperson: Requesting assessment of the prescription cost analysis

Ed Humperson to Nina Monckton: Assessment of Prescription Cost Analysis