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 including where you live) do not exceed the capital limit.
In England, the limit is:
- £23,250 for people who live permanently in a care home
- £16,000 for everyone else
Any help you're entitled to is also available to your partner and any dependant young people.
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.
How to apply
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 (PDF, 451kb). It may also be available from your local Jobcentre Plus office or NHS hospital. A 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 6 months and 5 years, depending on your circumstances.
You do not 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 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
- get Universal Credit and meet the criteria
These benefits or tax credits already entitle you to full help with health costs.
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:
LIS Review Team
Help with Health Costs
152 Pilgrim Street
How to claim back money that you've 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 3 months of the date on which you paid, or within 3 months of the date of your sight test.
To claim a refund of prescription charges, you'll need an NHS receipt and refund form FP57. Ask for the form 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:
- 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: 29 April 2020
Next review due: 29 April 2023