If you have a low income, the NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for:
- NHS prescription charges
- NHS dental treatment charges
- the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
- the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment
- NHS wigs and fabric supports (check with your hospital for their arrangements for supplying NHS wigs)
The amount of help you’re entitled to depends on your household income and outgoings. Any help you’re entitled to is also available to your partner, if you have one.
If you have already paid for treatment, you can apply for a refund at the same time as you apply for the scheme.
Who can apply
Anyone can apply as long as they don't have savings or investments over a certain limit. You can't get help if you or your partner (or both) have more than:
- £16,000 in savings, investments or property (not including the place where you live)
- £23,250 in savings, investments or property if you live permanently in a care home (£24,000 if you live in Wales)
Some people can now apply online for the NHS Low Income Scheme.
If you are over 60, don't live with a partner and your only income is from a pension, you might be able to apply online. To find out visit https://services.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/check-for-help-paying-nhs-costs/start
Who doesn't need to apply
You don't need to apply if you're already entitled to full help with health costs.
You already get full help with health costs if you or your partner get:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Universal Credit - if your earnings during your last complete assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less if you had a child element or had limited capability for work
You’re also entitled to full help if you are named on, or entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
Any dependant children under 20 included on your benefit or tax credit claim are also entitled to the same help.
How to apply (HC1 form)
You need to complete an HC1 form and post it back to us.
If you live in England:
If you live in Scotland:
You can also get the HC1 from Jobcentres, GP practices, pharmacies and Citizens Advice.
If you live in Wales:
You can download the HC1 from the Welsh Government website.
You can also call 0345 603 1108 and select the option for health publications to get a copy sent to you. You may also be able to get an HC1 from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, dentists and opticians.
If you need help
If you need any help making your claim, please call us on 0300 330 1343.
Where to send your HC1
NHS Low Income Scheme
NHS Business Services Authority
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
You will need to use a stamp.
Renew your certificate
If you already have an HC2 or HC3 certificate through the NHS Low Income Scheme and would like to renew it, you will still need to complete a new HC1 form.
How applications are assessed
How much help you get depends on your weekly income and necessary outgoings, plus any savings or investments you have at the time you apply.
Your council tax and housing costs will be used in the assessment. This means that even if your income is too high for Income Support, you might still get help through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
If you have a partner, their income will also be taken into account as part of your assessment, as will the income of any other people who live with you (excluding children or dependent young people).
Evidence to support your application
If you're employed, you will need to include proof of your earnings with your HC1 application form.
- If you get paid weekly or fortnightly, you will need to provide your 5 most recent payslips.
- If you get paid monthly or four-weekly, you will need to provide your 2 most recent payslips.
If you can't provide the payslips we need, you can complete form LIS82 and send it with your application.
If you're self-employed, you will need to send your profit and loss accounts for a period representing at least 6 months. The period they cover must end within 12 months of the date of your claim (or, if you're claiming a refund, within 12 months of the date the charges were paid). If you can't send profit and loss accounts, you can send a trading account showing your business receipts and expenses for the period ending within 12 months before the date of the claim. You will also need to complete form LIS61 and send it with your application:
If the business has been trading for less than a year, or the trading pattern has recently changed, the assessment period will be adjusted to reflect this.
If you're a student, you need to include evidence of all grants, bursaries and awards you receive. Normally this will consist of an award notice showing how much money you get.
If you applied for a student loan, we need to see a copy of the financial assessment that was carried out, regardless of whether a loan was actually awarded.
The full amount of student loan available to you will be included as income in your assessment. This includes the income-assessed and the non-income assessed loan elements, regardless of whether an application was made for both elements, and any assessed contributions to the loan regardless of whether they are actually paid.
The outcome of your application
We'll normally assess your application within 18 working days of receiving your form.
If you're entitled to help you will get either:
- An HC2 certificate for full help with health costs, including free NHS prescriptions
- An HC3 certificate for limited help with health costs, which shows how much you have to pay towards your health costs
You should get your certificate within four weeks of applying. It will usually be valid for between six months and five years depending on your circumstances.
Ask for a review
If you think your application has been assessed incorrectly, you can ask for it to be formally checked by our Review Team.
You can request a review by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to:
LIS Review Team
NHS Business Services Authority
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
You will need to include:
- your certificate number
- your full name
- your date of birth
- your address, including postcode
- your telephone number
- a brief description of why you think your application was assessed incorrectly
Apply for a refund (HC5 form)
If you paid for treatment before you applied to the NHS Low Income Scheme, you might be able to claim a refund.
Refunds have to be claimed within three months of the date you paid the charge or had a sight test.
Ask your pharmacist, hospital or doctor for an NHS receipt form FP57 when you pay - you can't get one later. The form tells you what to do.
Refunds of other health costs
For refunds of other health costs, you need to complete an HC5 form and send it back to us. The form you fill in depends on the country you live in.
If you live in England
Print, complete and post the relevant form:
You can also order a form online and we'll post it to you. The HC5(W) form can't be ordered online - call 0300 330 1343 and we'll post the form to you.
If you live in Scotland
Download and print the HC5 – Scotland refund form (PDF: 80.5KB) and post it back to us
You can also get an HC5 from your GP practice or pharmacy.
If you live in Wales
You can obtain leaflets and forms here.
You can also call 0345 603 1108 and select the option for health publications to get a copy sent to you.
You might be able to get an HC5 from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, GP practices, dentists or opticians.