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Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS)

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

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

If you have questions about help with health costs, contact the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) online or call 0300 330 1343. They will respond to your queries Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday, 9am to 3pm.

Who can claim for help with travel costs?

To qualify for help with travel costs under the HTCS, you must meet 3 criteria:

  1. At the time of your appointment, you or your partner (including civil partners) must receive one of the qualifying benefits or allowances listed on this page, or meet the eligibility criteria for the NHS Low Income Scheme.
  2. You must have a referral for specialist care from a healthcare professional to a specialist or 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 the 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 1 and your child has been referred for treatment as outlined in condition 2 and condition 3 above.

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 healthcare professional says it's medically necessary for someone to travel with you.

Some integrated care boards (ICBs) 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 with you to your appointment.

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

Who cannot claim help with travel costs?

You cannot claim help with travel costs if you're visiting someone in hospital.

You also cannot claim if you're visiting a GP, dentist or another 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 on weekdays, weekends or 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're named on, or entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate (if you do not 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) – you can apply for these certificates through the NHS Low Income Scheme

Find out more about NHS tax credit exemption certificates on the NHSBSA website.

Find out more about the NHS Low Income Scheme.

What form of transport can I use?

The NHS organisation handling your claim will normally base any refund on what would have been the cheapest suitable mode of transport for your circumstances.

This can include your age, medical condition or any other relevant factors, such as the availability of public transport.

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 integrated care board (ICB).

You may also be able to claim for unavoidable car parking and toll charges.

If you need to use a taxi, you should agree this in advance with the hospital or ICB before you travel.

Patients in London may be able to claim reimbursement of congestion charges or Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges. Get more information on reimbursements of the Congestion Charge and ULEZ charge on the Transport for London website.

Help with similar schemes in other areas may be available – check with your ICB.

Help with travel costs before your appointment

You're expected to pay for your travel and claim back the costs within 3 months.

In some cases, you may be able to get an advanced payment to help you attend your appointment.

The NHS service providing your treatment should be able to tell you how to apply. Alternatively, contact your local ICB for advice.

How do I claim a refund?

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

Nominated cashiers' offices are located in the hospital or clinic that treated you. They'll assess your claim and make 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're not sure, ask reception or Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) staff where you should go.

Some hospitals and clinics do not have cashier facilities. In this case, you can complete an HC5(T) travel refund form and post it to the address stated on the form.

You can make a postal claim up to 3 months after your appointment took place.

Download an HC5(T) form to claim necessary costs of travel for NHS treatment from NHSBSA website.

Can I claim travel expenses for treatment abroad?

If you're travelling abroad for treatment on the NHS, you may be able to claim for travel costs incurred travelling from your home to the international railway station, port or airport where you leave Great Britain and your international journey begins.

This is treated the same as if you were travelling from home to receive NHS care in Great Britain. You can claim for these costs if you would normally qualify for help with travel costs through the HTCS.

The cost of your travel from the port in Great Britain to the place of treatment abroad falls within NHS foreign travel expenses and cannot be claimed through the HTCS.

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

You'll only be entitled to have NHS foreign travel expenses paid for when the health service body that 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 going abroad for medical treatment.

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
  • Call 0300 330 1343 for all other queries

Page last reviewed: 14 August 2023
Next review due: 14 August 2026