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Opening a doorway to richer costing data

Colin Dingwall, costing improvements director at NHS Improvement (NHSI), discusses the functionalities and benefits of the new National PLICS Portal due to go live this month.

What are the key metrics needed to measure the quality of patient care? Perhaps a patient’s length of stay in hospital? How much it costs to treat a patient? Patient outcomes or satisfaction? What about how your trust’s performance compares to others? What if you could have all this information in one place? Well, that possibility just got a bit closer…

Since January, me and my colleagues at NHSI have been working with acute trusts on a new collection of patient-level costs (sometimes referred to as PLICS) as part of our costing transformation programme. Forty-eight early implementer trusts have completed this PLICS submission and numbers are still increasing. The data which has been submitted will soon be available to trusts in the new National PLICS Portal. This allows them to analyse their data and provides an easy way to interrogate activity and cost information. Data can be viewed in various ways: summarised level such as by specialty, type of procedure, consultant, or even individual patient activity. The tool contains reports which are aligned with NHSI’s Model Hospital metrics, and trusts can select others who took part in the CTP PLICS collection to compare their activity against peers.

The portal goes live in October, and functionality will continue to be enhanced over the next six months. Updates will incorporate feedback from users and build in additional metrics. We’re continuing to work with Model Hospital and Get it Right First Time (GIRFT) to extend the use of the PLICS data and integrate this into their programmes. We’re even looking to include outcome measures alongside cost and activity information, so that the portal can become one single source of information for all trusts.

We want to ensure high-quality data in the portal. To help with this, we will share data back with trusts as soon as possible. This should improve costing data quality, and help trusts reap the wider benefits that PLICS offers.

In autumn 2017 we will also release a data quality tool for PLICS data submissions. The tool will highlight significant outliers and potential data issues for trusts to investigate further.

Initially, the portal will only cover acute activity for the early implementer. However, not for long! We’re already working with mental health and ambulance providers on a pilot collection later this year and have started to work with community providers towards a PLICS collection in 2018. At the same time, we will develop the portal to enable the full patient pathway to be visualised. This will become incredibly powerful for anyone looking to understand the costs of care across organisational boundaries or across an STP footprint.

In the next few years, we are also looking to use this PLICS data as the prime source of national costing information, ultimately superseding reference costs and reducing the impact of multiple collections on providers. However, we will only be able to do this once there is full PLICS coverage.

We have recently published a consultation on mandating acute patient-level cost collection from 2018-19. This initial consultation focuses on acute services, but in time we plan to roll out patient-level costing across all sectors. Already, our PLICS collections in 2018 will span acute, mental health, ambulance and community services and this data will be fed into the PLICS Portal.

That vital information you need to measure and improve the quality of care delivered by your organisation could be closer than you think.

For more information on NHSI PLICS collections and portal, visit our website.

(Top image c. Alphotographic)


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