PFR Automation Tool

The Provider Finance Return Automation (PFR) Tool has been developed through a partnership between NHS England’s returns team and members of the Innovation Forum.

The challenge

NHS providers’ Provider Finance Returns (PFRs) are crucial for NHS England to monitor financial performance and identify emerging pressures, such as staffing issues. However, completing these returns is time-consuming, diverting resources from analysis and support activities that directly enhance patient care. Additionally, the manual process is prone to human error, where even a simple cut-and-paste mistake can cause significant issues.

The process

The automation process standardises the data set similarly to how data sets are created for outpatient or emergency activity. All organisations can configure their ledger systems to output data in a specified order. Depending on the ledger’s capabilities, data can be output either at the NHS England category summary level or may require some local mapping by the trust.

The standardised output list includes three columns: subcode, main code, and value. These codes clearly indicate the specifics, such as year-to-date costs for substantive registered nurses. The trust finance manager simply cuts and pastes this list into the provided spreadsheet tool, which then populates the rest of the workbook automatically.


Using the tool is entirely voluntary and involves a one-time setup with the ledger system. Trusts can choose to automate sections gradually, starting perhaps with income and expenditure, while continuing to manage the balance sheet and cash manually. Alternatively, they might begin with staffing costs and expand automation over time.

For more information, read the article in Healthcare Finance about the tool here and view our resources on how to use the tool below. 


Guides and resources to support the implementation of the tool

PFR Automation tool training webinar slides 24-25


PFR Automation Tool Q&A’s Training webinar 24-25