NHSBSA publishes ‘Prescribing Costs in Hospital and the Community 2020-21 – England’ report

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has published its Prescribing Costs in Hospitals and the Community 2020-21 statistical report.

The report covers data in England from April 2020 to March 2021. It compares expenditure on medicines between primary care, secondary care and prescriptions written in secondary care but dispensed in the community.

It reports the overall cost at list price, before any discounts, of medicines used in hospitals and those prescribed in primary care in England. It is not necessarily the price the NHS paid.

Here are the key findings below:

It was found that the total expenditure on medicines in England by the NHS in 2020/21 was estimated to be £16.7 billion. The total expenditure without central rebates was £17.1 billion, an increase of 4.56% from the £16.4 billion in 2019/20. This is split down to £9.42 billion issued in primary care and dispensed in the community, £7.59 billion issued in hospitals, £87.9 million prescribed in hospitals and dispensed in the community, and £24.3 million prescribed by dentists and dispensed in the community.

The cost of medicines prescribed in primary care in England in 2020/21 was £9.42 billion, 55% of total expenditure. The cost of medicines dispensed in hospitals in England in 2020/21 was £7.59 billion, 44% of total expenditure.

In 2020/21, ‘Malignant Disease and Immunosuppression’ drugs (BNF Chapter 8) had the highest spend across all settings of £2.80 billion, 16.3% of the total spend. Of this spend, £2.61 billion was for medicines issued and dispensed in hospitals.

Lastly, the average costs per person for drugs, dressing, appliances, and medical devices prescribed in England in 2020/21 across all settings was £303.

To read the full report go to


Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen


Notes to editors

Please get in touch if you are unsure of the statistics above. This is important to ensure that the figures are not misunderstood or misrepresented and we have a fast response rate.

Prescription ‘items’ refer to individual drugs or inhalers etc on a prescription form, however a ‘prescription’ can include multiple medicines on it.

These statistics are based on the financial year and not on the calendar year as some other sources of data may be.

The British National Formulary (BNF) is a reference book containing the standard list of medicines used in UK prescribing. It aims to provide prescribers, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals with sound up-to-date information about the use of medicines. For more information about BNF go to

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