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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 receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria

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

In most cases you are expected to pay for your travel and claim back the costs afterward.  However, payment of NHS travel expenses may be made before the expenses are incurred.

The guidance for the healthcare travel cost scheme (see page 32) describes acceptable payment methods for patients, including when advance payment is possible such as to some patients on low incomes or benefit and may not have ready access to the money required to travel to their healthcare appointment, which can be a significant barrier to accessing healthcare. Therefore where required and appropriate, advance payments may be made to patients to assist them in attending their health care appointments.

Also, advanced payments may be issued to patients attending hospitals/clinics that do not have cashier or cash handling functions. Please contact the hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) concerned for further information on how to do this.

Possible payment methods are:

  • 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 

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.

Page last reviewed: 14/01/2016

Next review due: 14/01/2018

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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