You are here:

NHS in England: help with health costs

Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS)

If you're referred to hospital or other NHS premises for specialist NHS treatment or diagnostic tests by your doctor, dentist or another health professional, you may be able to claim a refund of reasonable travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).

This section explains who's eligible for the scheme and how to make a claim.

Tip

If you have questions about help with health costs, join the Help with Health Costs team on Facebook, where the NHS Business Services Authority will respond to your queries Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Who can claim for help with travel costs?

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 receive one of the qualifying benefits or allowances listed below, or meet the eligibility criteria for the NHS Low Income Scheme.

2. You must have a referral from a healthcare professional for a specialist or to a hospital for further NHS treatment or tests (often referred to as secondary care).

3. Your appointment must be on a separate visit to when the referral was made. This applies whether your treatment is provided at a different location (hospital or clinic) or on the same premises as where your GP or another health professional issued the referral.

Children and other dependants

You can claim travel costs for your children if you're eligible for any of the benefits described under condition one and your child has been referred for treatment as outlined in condition two and condition three.

If your child is aged 16 or over, they may make their own claim under the Low Income Scheme.

Carers and escorts

You can claim travel costs for an escort if your health professional says it's medically necessary for someone to travel with you.

Some clinical commissiong groups (CCGs) may accept claims for help with travel costs if you're the parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 who you have to bring to your appointment with you.

These payments are made on the basis of the patient's eligibility for the scheme, irrespective of the escort's eligibility. 

Who can't claim help with travel costs?

You can't claim help with travel costs if: 

  • you're visiting someone in hospital – but if you receive one of the qualifying benefits listed below, you may be able to receive assistance from your local council
  • you're visiting your local GP, dentist or other primary care service provider for routine check-ups or other services, such as vaccinations or cervical cancer screening, as these are excluded from the scheme – urgent primary care services during out-of-hours periods (between 6.30pm and 8pm weekdays, at weekends or on bank holidays) are also excluded  

What are the qualifying benefits and allowances?

You can claim help with travel costs if you or your partner (including civil partner) receive any of the following benefits: 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • you receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria

You can also claim for help with travel costs if:

  • you are named on, or entitled to, an 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
  • 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, which is available from your local hospital, Jobcentre Plus offices, or the NHS print contract order line on 0300 123 0849

Read more about the NHS Low Income Scheme.

What form of transport can I use?

The NHS organisation handling your claim will base any refund on the basis of what would have been the cheapest suitable mode of transport for your circumstances, which can include your age, medical condition, or any other relevant factors. 

This means you should use the cheapest, most appropriate means of transport, which in most cases will be public transport.

If you travelled by car and your claim was approved, you'll be reimbursed for the cost of fuel at the mileage rate used by your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). You'll also be able to claim for unavoidable car parking and toll charges.

When using a taxi for transport, it's recommended that you agree this in advance with the hospital or CCG before you travel. Find your local hospital

Patients in London may be able to claim congestion charges – get more information on the Congestion Charge NHS Reimbursement Scheme operated by Transport for London.

Help with travel costs before your appointment

In most cases, you're expected to pay for your travel and claim back the costs. The majority of payments are made on the day of your appointment by the cashier. If a cashier isn't available, it's possible to claim in advance of travel or retrospectively using the HC5 (T) claim travel charges (PDF, 35.5kb).

The HTCS also allows advance payments to help you attend your healthcare appointments  for example, if you don't have the money to get to your hospital appointment and you're on a low income or benefits. 

Advanced payments may also be issued if you're attending a hospital or NHS clinic that doesn't have a cashiers' office. Contact the hospital or relevant CCG to check.

How do I claim a refund?

You should take your travel receipts, appointment letter or card, and proof that you're receiving one of the qualifying benefits to a nominated cashiers' office to claim your travel costs.

Nominated cashiers' offices will be located in the hospital or clinic that treated you. They're responsible for assessing your claim and making the payment directly to you.

In some hospitals, the name of the office you need to go to may be different – for example, the General Office or the Patient Affairs Office. If you aren't sure, ask reception or Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) staff where you should go.

If the hospital or clinic doesn't have a cashier facility, you can complete a HC5 (T) claim travel charges form (PDF, 35.5kb) and post it to the address stated on the form. 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're travelling abroad for treatment under the NHS, you may claim for travel costs incurred travelling to a port (including an airport, ferry port, or international railway station) in Great Britain from where your international journey begins.

The cost of your travel from the port to the place of treatment falls within NHS foreign travel expenses and can't be claimed through HTCS.

NHS foreign travel expenses are travel expenses that a person incurs travelling abroad from a port in Great Britain to receive services arranged by the NHS.

You're only entitled to have NHS foreign travel expenses paid for when the health service body that 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. This all has to happen before the costs are incurred.

Find out more about seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Important numbers

Call 0300 330 1348 for the dental services helpline

Call 0300 330 1343 for the Low Income Scheme helpline

Call 0300 330 1341 for queries about medical exemption certificates

Call 0300 330 1341 for queries about prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs)

Call 0300 330 1349 for the prescription services helpline

Call 0300 330 1347 for queries about tax credit certificates

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

For all other queries, call 0300 330 1343

Page last reviewed: 01/04/2017

Next review due: 01/04/2020