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Financial forecasting

Financial forecasting helps commissioners and providers with financial planning.

The forecast out-turn is a forecast of the spend for each practice for the current financial year, calculated using the expected profile of expenditure for England.

Calculating the forecast out-turn 


The forecast out-turn (FO) calculation assumes that each month's expenditure for a practice is in line with the national trend for proportionate spend. This means it's assumed that a practice's cumulative spend to date is the percentage of total spend defined by the national trend. The percentages used are updated each year to reflect the latest trend information.

The FO formula for an existing practice is:

(Cumulative actual cost x 100) ÷ cumulative proportionate spend figure

The FO will not be shown for the first 2 months of the financial year (relating to April and May dispensing) due to the volatility of forecasting over the beginning of the year. The first month that this will be shown, for each financial year, will be for June dispensing.

The profile received in July 2021 will be used to calculate forecast out-turns for 2021 to 2022 prescriptions. Due to CCGs being unable to set budgets at present due to the many unknowns in the current situation, we are unable to show figures on PMD reports.

The profile:

  • excludes drugs costs met centrally
  • includes practice, out of hours, and community nurse prescribing
  • is subject to change

The method used to calculate the forecast of primary care prescribing expenditure:

  • considers monthly expenditure data from the last five years
  • removes the effect of policies (reductions due to PPRS and Category M) from last year's expenditure
  • looks at the effect of the number of dispensing days, the position of the month in the year and the year of expenditure

This is collated to predict the monthly expenditure for this year.

The percentage is then applied to data from the monthly Prescribing Monitoring Document.

Revision to the in-year forecast of primary care prescribing expenditure

The profile for 2021 to 2022 is subject to change and is based on the best information available at the time. The profiles will be revised accordingly as further information becomes available. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) receive a number of queries about our data that we're unable to answer, for example, the treatment NCSO cost pressures.

These queries should be directed to those responsible for the data collection or the relevant CCG policy contact in the NHS.

Forecast out-turn 2021 to 2022 - Updated

Reviewed and updated 17 January 2022


Practice Prescribing Monthly Profile

Practice Prescribing Cumulative Monthly Profile

April 2021

8.52% 8.52%

May 2021

8.18% 16.70%

June 2021

8.81% 25.51%

July 2021

8.58% 34.09%

August 2021

8.14% 42.23%

September 2021

8.81% 51.04%

October 2021

8.59% 59.63%

November 2021

8.48% 68.11%

December 2021

8.17% 76.28%

January 2022

7.60% 83.88%

February 2022

7.43% 91.31%

March 2022

8.69% 100%




Forecast template

Produced by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the forecast template is intended to support PCOs with their primary care drug spend planning. The output doesn’t state the position of ourselves or DHSC.

View the amended forecast template 2021 to 2022 (Excel: 94KB)

​​The template inputs up to 5 years of historic data into a linear regression model and calculates a forecast spend for each month of the current financial year, taking into consideration:     

  • the number of dispensing days
  • the position of the month in the year (seasonality)
  • the year of expenditure

It can also make adjustments for any policies/local initiatives that will affect prescribing spend.

The template allows organisations to input their own historical data and policy changes/local initiatives.

This forecasting methodology uses similar background data as the forecast out-turn provided in the Prescribing Monitoring Documents, however the forecasts are based upon local data rather than national level profiles applied to local data.

Detailed guidance behind the methodology (Word: 929KB)

Other forecasting methods (forecasting spreadsheet)

We provide a forecast spreadsheet that primary care organisations can use to calculate their forecast expenditure for the financial year.

Historically, we were asked to provide a simple and user-friendly forecasting tool. As such, the forecasts are purely based upon previous prescribing costs.

Local prescribing policies could also affect the forecasts and users should take such policies into consideration when estimating expenditure.

View the Forecasting spreadsheet 2021 to 2022 (Excel: 36KB)

The spreadsheet uses two different forecasting methods:

Linear trend method

The linear trend method is the simpler of the two and is calculated by drawing a ‘best fit line’ through previous data, and extrapolating this line into the future.

The advantage of the linear trend method is that it is simple to calculate and understand. However, it can be easily skewed by extremes in expenditure. For example, expenditure is often high around October due to prescribing of influenza vaccines; this peak could skew the data and produce artificially high forecasts. Known extremes could be locally amended to reduce bias expected in forecasted data.

Moving averages method

The moving averages method smoothes the data in such a way that the effect of random variation is reduced and the underlying pattern is easier to see.

The advantage of the moving averages method is that the smoothing process produces more stable forecasts from month to month. 

The disadvantage to this method is that it reacts slower than other methods to permanent changes in the level of expenditure; for example policies such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme and the Category M price changes could mean that forecasts based on old higher prices will be too high. In this case, additional calculations could be carried out locally to estimate the impact of such policies and the forecast adjusted accordingly.

Send any questions, comments or suggestions about the information and forecasting methods by emailing us:

Dispensing days

View the number of dispensing days by financial year (Excel: 12KB)

It includes the number of dispensing days per month for the current and the previous three financial years.

Dispensing days excludes Sundays and bank holidays.

National average discount percentage

The National Average Discount Percentage is used to calculate actual cost shown in NHS Prescription Services prescribing and financial reports .

It is calculated by: the sum of all discounts ÷ the sum of all basic price x 100.

2022 to 2023

Used for Reports in National Average Discount Percentage
Apr 22 6.43

2021 to 2022

Used for Reports in National Average Discount Percentage
Mar 22 6.48
Feb 22 6.38

Jan 22

Dec 21 6.65
Nov 21 6.73
Oct 21 6.81
Sep 21 6.77
Aug 21 6.67
Jul 21 6.75
Jun 21 6.88
May 21 6.82
Apr 21 6.86

2020 to 2021

Used for Reports in National Average Discount Percentage
Mar 21 6.95
Feb 21 6.86
Jan 21 6.92
Dec 20 7.00
Nov 20 6.98
Oct 20 7.17
Sep 20 7.14
Aug 20 7.02
Jul 20 7.11

Jun 20

May 20 7.06
Apr 20 7.04

2019 to 2020

Used for Reports in National Average Discount Percentage
Mar 20 7.11
Feb 20 6.92
Jan 20 7.02
Dec 19 7.05
Nov 19 7.07
Oct 19 7.14
Sep 19 7.15
Aug 19 7.16
Jul 19 7.04
Jun 19 7.07
May 19 7.13
Apr 19 7.09

2018 to 2019

Used for Reports in National Average Discount Percentage
Mar 19 7.09

Feb 19

Jan 19 7.19
Dec 18 7.18
Nov 18 7.23
Oct 18 7.31
Sep 18 7.20
Aug 18 7.22
Jul 18 7.13
Jun 18 7.22
May 18 7.19
Apr 18 7.26

2017 to 2018

Used for Reports in

National Average Discount Percentage

Mar 18 7.18
Feb 18 7.31
Jan 18 7.33
Dec 17 7.37
Nov 17 7.52
Oct 17 7.43
Sept 17 7.37
Aug 17 7.47
Jul 17 7.48
Jun 17 7.38
May 17 7.30

Apr 17


2016 to 2017

Used for Reports in

National Average Discount Percentage

Mar 17


Feb 17


Jan 17


Dec 16


Nov 16


Oct 16


Sep 16


Aug 16


Jul 16


Jun 16


May 16


Apr 16


2015 to 2016

Used for Reports in

National Average Discount Percentage

Mar 16


Feb 16


Jan 16


Dec 15


Nov 15


Oct 15


Sep 15


Aug 15


Jul 15


Jun 15


May 15


Apr 15


2014 to 2015

Used for Reports in

National Average Discount Percentage

Mar 15


Feb 15


Jan 15


Dec 14


Nov 14


Oct 14


Sep 14


Aug 14


Jul 14


Jun 14


May 14


Apr 14