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NHS in England: help with health costs

NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS)

If you have a low income, you may be able to get help with NHS costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).

The scheme covers:

You can apply for the scheme as long as your savings, investments or property (not counting the place you live) don't exceed the capital limit.

In England, the limit is:

Any help you're entitled to is also available to your partner and any dependent young people.

How to apply

Depending on your circumstances, you can receive full help (HC2 certificate) or partial help (HC3 certificate).

You qualify for full help if your income is less than or equal to your requirements, or is greater than your requirements by no more than half the current English prescription charge.

If your income exceeds this limit, you may be entitled to partial help. Your certificate will show how much you have to pay towards your health costs.

The rules governing who's eligible are broadly the same as those for a means-tested benefit. But the assessment also takes into account council tax and housing costs, so you can get help with health costs even if your income is too high for a means-tested benefit.

To apply for your certificate, you'll need to complete an HC1 form and post it to the address provided on the form.

You can order an HC1 form online or download it here (PDF, 218kb). It may also be available from your local Jobcentre Plus office or NHS hospital. Your doctor, dentist or optician may also be able to give you one.

If you need help making your claim or have questions about the LIS, call 0300 330 1343 to speak to an adviser. They can also fill in the form for you and post it to you to sign and return it to them.

Certificates are usually valid for between six months and five years, depending on your circumstances.

You don't need to apply if you or your partner:

  • get Income Support
  • get income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • get income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • are named on or entitled to a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if you don't have a certificate, you can show your award notice; you qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both) and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
  • get Universal Credit and meet the criteria 

These benefits or tax credits already entitle you to full help with health costs.

Formal reviews

If you're unhappy with the outcome of your claim, you can ask for a review by a service improvement adviser.

The service improvement team checks whether a claim has been correctly assessed in accordance with the regulations governing the scheme. If the decision was wrong, a new certificate will be sent to you.

You can request a review online or post your request to:

NHSBSA
LIS Review Team
Help with health costs
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE1 6SN

How to claim back money that you have already paid

You can submit a claim for a refund at the same time as you apply for the Low Income Scheme. Refund claims must be received within three months of the date on which you paid, or within three months of the date of your sight test.

To claim a refund of prescription charges, you'll need an NHS receipt form FP57. Ask for one when you pay for your prescription.

To claim a refund of other charges, including dental treatment, wigs and fabric supports, sight tests, glasses or contact lenses, and healthcare travel costs, you'll need the relevant HC5 form.

Download your HC5 form:

Important numbers

Dental services helpline – 0300 330 1348

NHS Low Income Scheme helpline – 0300 330 1343

Prescription services helpline – 0300 330 1349

Queries about medical exemption certificates – 0300 330 1341

Queries about prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) – 0300 330 1341

Queries about tax credit certificates – 0300 330 1347

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

Call 0300 330 1343 for all other queries

Page last reviewed: 01/04/2017

Next review due: 01/04/2020