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Help with health costs

The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme

You may be able to claim a refund under the 'Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme' (HTCS) of the cost of travelling to hospital or other NHS premises for NHS-funded treatment or diagnostic test arranged by a doctor or dentist.

To qualify for help with travel costs under the HTCS, you must meet three conditions:

  1. At the time of your appointment, you or your partner (including civil partners) must be receiving one of the qualifying benefits or allowances, or meet the eligibility criteria of the NHS Low Income Scheme.
  2. Your journey must be made to receive NHS-funded non-primary medical or non-primary dental care services, to which you have been referred to by a GP, dentist or hospital consultant.
  3. For referrals made by a primary practitioner such a GP or dentist, the service must be provided on a different day and in premises other than those occupied by the practitioner who made the referral.

You can claim travel costs for your children if 2 or 3 above applies to them and you are in group 1 above at the time of the appointment. Any young person aged 16 or over may make their own LIS claim – there is more information in leaflet HC11- Help with health costs (PDF, 453kb).

You can claim travel costs for an escort, if your doctor, dentist or consultant says that for medical reasons you need someone to travel with you.

You cannot claim help with travel costs, if

  • you are visiting someone in hospital. However, visitors in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits may be able to receive assistance in the form of a Discretionary Care Grant. Further information about this assistance can be obtained from your local council. Search for your local council now
  • you are visiting your local GP or dentist for routine primary care services, such as check-ups, vaccinations, cervical cancer screening or minor surgery, as these are excluded from the scheme.  Urgent primary care services during the out of hour periods (i.e. between 6.30pm and 8.00pm weekdays, at weekends or on bank holidays) are also excluded.

What are the qualifying benefits and allowances?

You or your partner (including Civil partners) receive

  • Income Support,
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance,
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or
  • you are named on, or entitled to (use your award notice as evidence), a NHS tax credit exemption certificate, or
  • you have a low income and are named on certificate HC2 (full help) or HC3 (limited help). To apply for this certificate, you should complete form HC1 available from your local hospital, Jobcentre Plus offices, or from the DH publications order line on 0300 123 1002.
  • you are awarded Universal Credit

Find out more about the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).

What form of transport can I use?

You should use the cheapest most appropriate means of transport, which in most cases will be public transport. If you travel by car you will be reimbursed the estimated cost of fuel used plus unavoidable car parking and toll charges.

Where you are using a taxi for transport it is recommended that you check with the hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) before you travel to agree this.

Patients in London may be able to claim congestion charges – You can find here further information on the Congestion Charge NHS Reimbursement Scheme (PDF, 613kb) operated by Transport for London.

Help with travel costs before your appointment

You should be able to receive payments in advance of travel to your appointment if necessary.

The guidance for the healthcare travel cost scheme (HTCS) states that there are three acceptable payment methods for patients: 

  • at hospital/clinic on the day of travel (where a cashier’s service exists)
  • retrospectively through a postal claim on form HC5(T) (PDF, 263kb)
  • in advance of travel 

In most cases you are expected to pay for your travel and claim back the costs afterward. However, not everyone may have the sufficient funds to pay their travel costs upfront, such as people on low income or benefits. Therefore, where required and appropriate, advance payments should be made to patients to assist them in attending their healthcare appointments.
If your hospital or clinic does not have cashier or cash handling facilities, arrangements should be made so that patients can make advance payments. Please contact the hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) concerned for further information on how to do this. 

How do I claim a refund?

How to claim a refund

You should take your travel receipts, appointment letter or card and proof that you are receiving one of the qualifying benefits to a nominated cashier’s office to claim your reimbursement.

Nominated cashiers offices are not restricted to hospitals and refer to any NHS unit that has a cashier facility. They are responsible for assessing the validity of the claim and making the payment directly to the eligible claimant.

In some hospitals, the name of the office that you need to go to may be different e.g. the General Office or the Patient Affairs Office. If you are not sure, ask reception or Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) staff where you should go.

If an organisation does not have a cashier facility you can you can complete an HC5 form - claim travel charges (PDF, 54kb) and post this together with your travel receipts to NHS Business Services Authority, Bridge House, 152 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 6SN . You can make a postal claim up to three months after your appointment has taken place.

Can I claim travel expenses for treatment abroad?

If you are travelling abroad for treatment under the NHS, a claim may be made for travel costs incurred in travelling to a port (including an airport, ferry port or international train station) in Great Britain from which an international journey begins. The costs of your travel from the port to the place of treatment fall within NHS foreign travel expenses and cannot be claimed through HTCS.

Note: NHS foreign travel expenses are travel expenses which a person necessarily incurs in travelling abroad from a port in Great Britain in order to receive services arranged by the NHS. A person will only be entitled to the payment of NHS foreign travel expenses where the health service body ,which has made the arrangements for services to be provided overseas, agrees the mode and cost of travel and the necessity or otherwise for a companion before the costs are incurred.

Please also read the section about Seeking medical treatment in Europe.


The 19 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

biobob said on 24 November 2014

My wife had a heart transplant 18 years ago and has to travel 4 times per year to a Hospital 60 miles away for 7:30am, we live in the sticks were there is no transport ever but even so there would be none even in a town that early.
as the hospital is miles from Newcastle centre it would still take a train ride and then a bus (if she could get to the train station departure point some how from the countryside in the dark) how can all this be done for a checkup 4 times each year,
she has been using the transport service for years but now they have totally blanket banned everything

The helpline said phone a taxi which is £170 or change to a local hospital (although they don't do transplants so god knows what they would check)
this country has gone totally down the nick and unless you are rich you get treated like rubbish
she will not be able to go to this years annual check-up now as we don't have cash or transport

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Editor NHS Choices said on 01 October 2014

If you want answers about help with health costs, join the Help with Health Costs Facebook page where the NHS Business Services Authority will respond to help with health costs questions Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm;

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glynnshine said on 15 August 2014

I have been referred to a hospital in London for specialist treatment and dont receive benefits as I work full time. My referring hospital is in Durham and I live in North Yorkshire. Am I entitled to have the journey paid for or do I refuse treatment?

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cudknot4 said on 08 January 2014

Elusia. In one way your GP is right. It is up to the hospital to provide transport. They should be able to advise you. I had to attend Oswestry Hospital and lived in Telford. I was on crutches and they provided transport for me. The same as when I had to attend Newcastle and could not drive the distance.

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Elusia said on 03 December 2013

My friend wants to go to Stanmore Hospital but lives in Roehampton. She is housebound with an arthritic knee. She will need hospital transport and her GP said that it is not possible. Is that correct?

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Seventhson said on 27 October 2013

In our area ( Boston ) we have ambulance car transport to help those with difficulty in getting to appointments and procedures. You can use this if you are unable to use public transport and if you are likely to be under the effects of sedation or anaesthetic. Regards claiming for fuel costs if you are travelling, providing you have a benefit letter then you usually produce this at the general office at the hospital on the day of the appointment. Some people who do not have financial hardships though, probably don't get assistance with costs.

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ktate said on 16 October 2013

my wife had breast cancer and im disabled so people know how traumatic trying to deal with blood tests surgery chemo and radio and check ups. it seems like weve lived at the umi of keele hostpital staffordshire for the last 12 months, been there two to three times a week and contant for the radio. we tried to claim our fares to hospital we were told to fill the yellow form in which we did and we sent it to the hospital. we received a check for £52 pounds then the hospital moved so did the finance dept. we went to the new hospital and she was very off handed fill the form and send it to newcastle on tyne which we di.d it was returned to us, told to send it to the job center which we did sent back to the hostpital with all the receipts in it was opened and the letter was returned with out the receipts. we wrote to newcastle again who said we needed to send to the job center who told us we needed to send to the patient liason office which we did and herd nothing and received nothing. the good part of it was that they made my wife well again but now its my turn so how do you claim your fares without the hassle, any ideas? would be much appreciated has for the cancer ward they were brilliant pity the finance dept wernt the same

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Dio1969 said on 04 September 2013


Check with the Hospital that referred you to the Royal London - I would have thought that if there was no other way to return (which it doesn't sound like there was with your bag) , the Hospital that referrred you there should pay for the journey.

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longdistancepatient said on 08 August 2013

I have several issues which can only be dealt with by a specialist hospital, and was sent to the Royal London Hospital 80 miles from where I live, for an operation.
The hospital does not provide transport and I had to make my own arrangements to get home. I was not able to use the train as My bag weighed over 2kgs and I had been instructed not to lift anything over this weight, so I booked a mini-cab. The cost was £110 and I now find that I cannot claim that back. No-one at any point had discussed with me how I was to get home.
I am on an aged pension of £138 a week, and am severely out of pocket.
I have taken my complaint to the ombudsman, and am awaiting a reply.
Let this be a warning to anyone who is being told to go to a specialist centre. Find out how you're going to get home after surgery before you go. I have no friends or family living close by, and live on my own.
I may have to have more surgery, but don't know what I'm going to do.

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Dixi said on 18 February 2013

Why does the Jobcentreplus take so long to process claims for healthcare travel costs? The cheque will then arrive months later from the hospital with no note with it so you have to ring them to find out what it is. If you claim from more than one source it is so difficult and no one wants to help in the NHS because they do not understand the scheme.

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Miss T Hewitt said on 06 December 2012

Is it possible to claim for car hire aswell as petrol? My son has a checkup in oxford which is 222miles away from us here in the northeast. My partner has a driving licence but we do not own a car and we are eligible to claim back some travel expenses with our HC3 certificate but can we claim back for car hire? thankyou

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phamer said on 08 November 2012

My wife has been signed off work and is on SSP and an appointment has been arranged about 20 miles away from our home for an scan in a hospital.
She is unable to drive and there are no buses that go from our village anywhere near the hospital. Are we wlligible for free hospital transport?

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porrlyboy said on 05 August 2012

My partner has to attend 4 clinics at a hospital that is not local, he has just had other problems and has had to go to this hospital on extra dates and to extra clincs - even further away. Way does he no longer qualify for travel costs

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User181899 said on 03 August 2012

how do i apply for a car to pick me up and take me to and back to a appointment also i need a carer to attend with me

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Dissatisfied said on 02 December 2011

I do not understand why incapacity benefit is not a straight qualifying reason for being able to claim financial help at a hospital. I get direct payments and ILF payments, have a full time carer as I am disabled and yet I cannot be reimbursed at a hospital but jump through hoops by having to claim low income.People on pension credit might notbe disabled so where is the equalops in this ?

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Peterxrm said on 28 October 2011

Veterans/war pensioners for their accepted disability would do better to claim expenses etc thro the Veterans agency as after a period of time away from home subsistence can be claimed for, plus claims for an attendant can be made.

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smiler03 said on 04 October 2011

I am in receipt of Income Support and had to travel about 30 miles to the Freeman Hospital, near Newcastle.

Because I live in a distant rural location it is accepted that I need to travel by car. My only problem is that the hospital refused to pay my hospital car park fee.

The "rules" above say that you are eligible for

"unavoidable car parking and toll charges."

I'd like to know why my hospital car park fee must have been classed as avoidable. Like most hospitals there is no free parking for miles around.

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peksy86 said on 11 August 2011

I am annoyed that the numbers provided are 0845 numbers. I am also extremely upset that there is no nationwide demand responsive travel service which does not cost £5 per person each way. For people on benefits due to disabilities or who have no work, BARELY survive and we cannot afford to waste money on phone calls to 0845 numbers and getting a taxi to a GP because we have no other method of transportation. Our choices are to either suffer in silence because we cannot afford the travel costs or to walk there and potentially make ourselves worse!!! Common sense would not go amiss.

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read354 said on 24 June 2010

what is the point of listing the web page where you can download forms if it is impossible to accsess them,
tipicle short term thinking who really dont understand the webb
peter read

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Page last reviewed: 01/04/2014

Next review due: 01/04/2016

Paying NHS charges

Read about rules on exemptions, claiming refunds, and what happens if you're caught claiming refunds dishonestly

Important numbers

Phone 0300 330 1348 for the dental services help line

Phone 0300 330 1343 for the Low Income Scheme help line

Phone 0300 330 1341 for queries about medical exemption certificates.

Phone 0300 330 1341 for queries about PPCs.

Phone 0300 330 1349 for the prescription services help line

Phone 0300 330 1347 for queries about tax credit certificates

Phone 0300 123 0849 to order a paper copy of the HC12, HC5 and HC1 (SC) forms

For all other queries call 0300 330 1343 

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