Why is this important? The information we provide differs between countries. To get information for your country, please select from the dropdown.

Help with health costs

About this information

Most NHS treatment is free, but there are a number of things for which there may be charges. This information tells you what you might be able to get help with, and whether you might be entitled.

Back to contents

Health costs for which you can get help

You may be able to get help with:-

  • prescription charges
  • NHS dental charges, including check-ups
  • sight tests
  • vouchers towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses
  • travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment
  • travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment
  • wigs and fabric supports, for example, abdominal and spinal supports, and support tights.

Back to contents

Help with prescription charges

In England, you are entitled to get prescriptions free of charge if you:

  • are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. Your partner and children will also be entitled to free prescriptions if they are included in your benefit award. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to free prescriptions. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to free prescriptions, depending on your income
  • are 60 or over (you must show proof of age to the pharmacist)
  • have a listed medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate. Ask your GP if you think this might apply to you
  • are having treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer or the effects of cancer treatment and you have a valid medical exemption certificate. You get free prescriptions for all NHS medication, not just the cancer medication
  • you are on prescribed medication to prevent a pandemic disease, for example, pandemic influenza
  • have a continuing physical disability which means you cannot go out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate
  • are under 16. You must show proof to the pharmacist
  • are still in full-time education. You must show proof to the pharmacist
  • get a war or service disablement pension, need prescriptions for your disability and hold an exemption certificate
  • are a prisoner
  • are pregnant, or have had a baby in the last twelve months and have a valid exemption certificate. This includes if you have had a miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy, or your baby was stillborn
  • have got a community care order and you are expected to take medication for the treatment of your mental disorder.

For a full list of people who can get help with prescription charges, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

To apply for a medical exemption certificate ask your GP, hospital or pharmicist for Form FP92A.

To apply for a maternity exemption certificate, ask your GP, midwife or health visitor for form FW8.

If none of the categories mentioned in this list applies to you, you may still be able to get free prescriptions on the grounds of low income – see under heading Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Prepayment certificates

If you need frequent prescriptions but do not qualify to get them free of charge, you can buy a prepayment certificate which will save you money.

You can get a prepayment certificate which lasts for either three or twelve months. You can pay for the twelve month certificate by direct debit, in ten equal monthly instalments.

Before buying a prepayment certificate, check that you are not entitled to free prescriptions, as it can be difficult to get a refund once you have paid for your certificate.

There are a number of ways to buy a prepayment certificate:

  • over the phone from the NHS Business Services Authority
  • from the NHS Business Services Authority website
  • from the pharmacist
  • from your Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Contact details for the NHS Business Services Authority are:

NHS Business Services Authority
PPC Issue Office
PO Box 854
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE99 2DE
Tel: 0300 330 1341
E-mail: nhsbsa.ppc1@nhsbsa.nhs.uk
Website: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

For more information about the costs of prepayment certificates, see NHS charges and optical voucher values.

Back to contents

Help with dental treatment

You are entitled to free NHS dental treatment, including check-ups, if, at the start of the treatment, you:-

  • are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. Your partner and children will also be entitled to free treatment if they are included in your benefit award. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to free dental treatment.. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to free dental treatment, depending on your income
  • are under 18
  • are 18 and in full-time education
  • are pregnant, or have had a baby during the last twelve months. This includes if you have had a miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy, or your baby was stillborn
  • are a prisoner.

For a full list of people who can get help with dental treatment, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

You may have to show your dentist proof that you are entitled to free treatment. If your circumstances change before treatment ends, you will still be able to get free treatment.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get free dental treatment on the grounds of low income – see under heading, Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Back to contents

Help with sight tests

You will be entitled to free NHS sight tests if you:-

  • are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to help with sight tests. Your partner and children will also be entitled to free tests if they are included in your benefit award. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to free NHS sight tests, depending on your income
  • are under 16
  • are under 19 and in full-time education
  • are 60 or over
  • need complex lenses
  • are registered blind or partially sighted
  • have diabetes or glaucoma
  • are aged 40 or over and are the parent, brother, sister or child of someone with glaucoma, or you have been advised that you are at risk of glaucoma
  • are a war pensioner, and need a sight test because of a disability for which you get a war pension
  • are a hospital patient, and need a sight test for the management of your eye condition.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you may be able to get help towards the costs of a private sight test, on the grounds of low income – see under heading, Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

For a full list of people who can get help with NHS sight tests, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

Back to contents

Help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses

You will be entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses if you:-

  • are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to help with the costs of prescription glasses or contact lenses. Your partner and children will also be entitled to a voucher if they are included in your benefit award. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to help, depending on your income
  • are under 16
  • are under 19 and in full-time education
  • need complex lenses
  • are a prisoner on leave from prison
  • are aged 16 or 17 and are financially maintained by your local authority.

If you are entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses, you will get an NHS optical voucher.

For more information about the value of optical vouchers, see NHS charges and optical voucher values.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you may still be able to get help towards the costs of prescription glasses or contact lenses on the grounds of low income – see under heading, Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

For a full list of people who can get help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

Back to contents

Help with travel costs for NHS treatment

You can get essential travel costs paid to and from a place where you receive certain types of NHS treatment, if you are:

  • getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to help with travel costs for NHS treatment. Your partner and children will also be entitled to help if they are included in your benefit award. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to help, depending on your income
  • get a war or service disablement pension and need to go to hospital for treatment for that disability.

For a full list of people who can get help with travel costs for NHS treatment, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

If you need someone to travel with you for medical reasons, you can get their travel costs paid as well.

You can claim a refund of your travel costs by filling in form HC5 and giving it to the place you go to for NHS treatment. If you can't afford to pay your travel costs in advance, you can ask for an advance payment. Alternatively, you may be able to get help from your local authority.

For more information, see Help for people on a low income – the Social Fund and other welfare schemes.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get help with your travel costs on the grounds of low income – see under heading, Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Back to contents

Help with the cost of wigs and fabric supports

If you have been prescribed an NHS wig or fabric support by a hospital, you will be able to get it free if you are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. People getting Universal Credit as part of the pathfinder scheme are also entitled to free wigs and fabric supports. Your partner and children will also be entitled to free wigs and fabric supports if they are included in your benefit award. If you are getting tax credits, you may be entitled to help, depending on your income.

If you aren't getting one of these benefits or tax credits, you may be entitled to free wigs or fabric supports if you:

  • are under 16
  • are under 19 and in full-time education
  • are a hospital in-patient when the wig or fabric support is supplied
  • get a war or service disablement pension and need a wig or fabric support because of your disability
  • are a prisoner.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get help with the cost of wigs and fabric supports on the grounds of low income – see under heading, Help with health costs if you are on a low income.

For a full list of people who can get help with the cost of wigs and fabric supports, see the Department of Health leaflet HC11 Help with health costs at: www.nhsba.nhs.uk.

Back to contents

Help with health costs if you are on a low income

NHS low income scheme error

Some people who applied to the NHS low income scheme between October 2003 and September 2008 may have paid too much towards their health costs, due to an error in the scheme’s calculations. This only affects a small number of people who meet certain criteria, but if you’re affected you can apply for a payment.

Find out whether you’re affected.

If you have difficulty in meeting your health costs and do not qualify for any other kind of help, you may be able to get help under the NHS low income scheme.

The amount of help you get will depend on the amount of income you have. You might not be entitled to any help at all if you have too much capital. There are two types of certificate: a full help certificate (HC2), and a limited help certificate (HC3), which tells you how much you have to pay.

Full help certificate

If you are entitled to a full help certificate, you will get:-

  • free NHS prescriptions
  • free NHS dental treatment, including check-ups
  • free NHS sight tests (including sight tests at home) and full value vouchers for glasses or contact lenses
  • full repayment of necessary travel costs for hospital treatment
  • full repayment of travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment
  • free NHS wigs and fabric supports
  • travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment.

Limited health certificate

If you are entitled to a limited help certificate, you may be able to get some help with the costs of:-

  • dental treatment and check ups
  • private sight tests
  • vouchers for glasses or contact lenses
  • wigs and fabric supports
  • necessary travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment
  • travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment.

You will not be entitled to any help with the costs of prescriptions.

How to apply for help on the low income scheme

To apply for either a full help certificate (HC2) or a limited help certificate (HC3), complete form HC1, which is available from local benefit offices, NHS hospitals, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. Form HC1 can also be ordered online at www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk. You do not have to wait until you need treatment before you apply for a certificate. Send the completed form HC1 to:


NHS Business Services Authority - NHS Low Income Scheme
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE1 6SN


Tel: 0300 330 1343 0845 850 1166
E-mail: nhsbsa.lis1@nhs.net
Website: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk.

How to claim a refund under the low income scheme

If you do not have a certificate under the low income scheme when you pay a health charge, but think that you might be entitled to one, you can make a claim for a refund.

To claim a refund of prescription charges, you must ask the pharmacist for form FP57 (or HCS(R) in Scotland) at the time that you pay the charge. You will not be able to get this form at a later date. For all other health charges, you will need form HC5 to claim your refund. These are available from local benefit offices, NHS hospitals and some practitioners. The forms should be sent to the the NHS Business Services Authority – see above.

If you are entitled to help under the low income scheme, any refund due will be paid when you get your certificate.

Back to contents

Proof of entitlement to help with health costs

If you claim help with a health cost and you are unable prove that you are entitled, your claim will be checked and you may have to pay a penalty charge if it is found that you were not entitled to help.

The penalty charge will be five times the charge that you should have paid, up to a maximum of £100. If you fail to pay the penalty charge, the NHS can take action to recover the debt in court. The penalty charge will be increased by fifty per cent if you do not pay within 28 days of the date that the penalty notice is sent.

Back to contents

Citizens Advice

Rate this page Give feedback