Help with NHS costs
It is possible to qualify for help with NHS costs such as prescriptions, vouchers for glasses, dental treatment and reasonable travel costs to hospital for treatment.
You should automatically be entitled to help with these costs if you receive one of the following benefits:
- Income support.
- Income based Jobseeker's Allowance.
- Income related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Pension credit (guarantee credit).
- Child Tax Credit by itself or Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and your annual taxable income is £15,276 or less. You should be sent a tax credit exemption certificate from the NHS Business Services Authority.
- Working tax credit with a disabled worker element or severe disability element and your annual taxable income is £15,276 or less. You should be sent a tax credit exemption certificate from the NHS Business Services Authority.
If you get Universal Credit, whether you qualify automatically for help with NHS costs will depend on whether you have earnings and if so the amount. You will not qualify automatically as a Universal Credit claimant if:
- Your Universal Credit award includes at least one child element and you (or your partner) have combined earnings of more than £935 per month.
- You or your partner have a limited capability for work and your combined earnings are more than £935 per month.
- Your award does not include a child element and neither you or your partner have a limited capability for work but you have combined earnings of more than £435 per month.
A dependent child whose parent meets any of the tests above is also entitled to help automatically.
If you don't qualify for help as someone getting one of the benefits mentioned above, you may still be entitled to help automatically in certain circumstances.
Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In England they are free if you are aged under 16, under 19 and in full time education, aged 60, are pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months. They are also free to patients who have specified conditions.
Sight tests and glasses
Sight tests are free in Scotland. Elsewhere in the UK they are free if you are aged 60 or over, registered with a visual impairment or partially sighted or have glaucoma or diabetes (or are aged 40 and above and are a close relative of someone with glaucoma or diabetes).
You will get free vouchers for glasses or contact lenses if are aged under 16 or are under 19 and in full time education. You also qualify regardless of age if you need complex or powerful glasses.
Free NHS dental treatment
In Scotland dental examinations (but not treatment) are free to everyone. Dental examinations are free in Wales if you are aged under 25 or over 60.
In England you will qualify for free dental treatment if you are aged under 18, or under 19 and in full time non-advanced education, or if you are pregnant or have given birth in the last year or in certain circumstances if you are a hospital dentist service patient.
Travel to hospital for treatment
If you're referred to hospital or other NHS premises for treatment or tests, you may be able to get help with reasonable travel costs. You can claim for the travel costs of a carer or escort as long as your health professional confirms that this is medically necessary. You may qualify for help automatically if you get any of the benefits mentioned above or by applying under the NHS low Income Scheme - see below.
Normally the NHS will only refund the cheapest, most appropriate mode of transport. This usually means public transport. If you used your car and your claim is approved, you will be reimbursed for the cost of fuel at a mileage rate calculated by the local Clinical Commissioning Group. You can also claim any unavoidable parking or toll charges.
If you plan to use a taxi you should discuss this in advance with the hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group.
Normally you are expected to pay for your own travel and claim back the costs within three months, but in some cases you may be able to get an advance payment. Remember to hold onto your receipts as you will need this, along with proof of your benefit entitlement, to claim back your expenses from the cashier at the hospital or clinic you attend. More information is available at www.nhs.uk
This scheme only covers travel to hospital for treatment. It does not help with travel to visit someone else. If you need help with the costs of travel to hospital as a visitor, you will need to apply to charitable trusts for help.
NHS Low Income scheme
If you do not qualify for help with NHS costs automatically under the rules set out above, you may be able to get some help with NHS costs via the NHS low income scheme. You can only apply if your capital is no more than £16,000. Whether you get help and the amount will depend on your income and your outgoings. Claim on form HC1 available at https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-low-income-scheme.