By Your Call Publishing | ,

Citizens Advice Column - October/November 21

Getting Help With Health Costs – The NHS Low Income Scheme

As budgets are squeezed it is important to know what help is out there for those on a low income. In this issue we are looking at the NHS’s Low Income Scheme; a scheme for helping low income households with NHS costs like prescription charges, dental charges, eye test costs and the costs of travelling to receive NHS treatment.

Take-up for this scheme is lower than it should be. Read the content below and see if you can get the help you need.

How Much Help Can You Get?

How much help you get depends on your weekly income and necessary outgoings, plus any savings or investments you have at the time you apply. If the amount you have left is low, you may be able to get help. Any help you’re entitled to is also available to your partner, if you have one.

If you have already paid for treatment, you can apply for a refund at the same time as you apply for the scheme.

If you disagree with the assessment decision you are entitled to ask for a review.

Who Can Get Help?

Anyone can apply as long as they do not have savings or investments over a certain limit. For example, you cannot get help if you or your partner (or both) have more than:

  • £16,000 in savings, investments or property (not including the place where you live)
  • £23,250 in savings, investments or property if you live permanently in a care home.

You do not need to apply if you're already entitled to full help with health costs because you, or your partner, get any of the benefits listed below (not exhaustive):

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit - if your earnings during your last complete assessment period were £435 or less, or £935 or less if you had a child element or had limited capability for work.

Any dependent children under 20 included on your benefit or tax credit claim are also entitled to the same help.

How Do You Apply?

You need to complete an HC1 form and post it back to us.

You can download and print an HC1 form or order an HC1 form online (see below). It will be posted to you.

You can also call 0345 603 1108 and select the option for health publications to get a copy sent to you.

You may also be able to get an HC1 from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, dentists and opticians.

If you need any help making your claim, call us on 0300 330 1343.

If you already have an HC2 or HC3 certificate through the NHS Low Income Scheme and would like to renew it, you will still need to complete a new HC1 form.

Note: The NHS is currently trialling a new service where some people can apply online for the NHS Low Income Scheme. You can only apply online if you do not have capital or savings of over £6,000 and you are one of the following:

  • a pensioner
  • earning a wage
  • receiving state benefits
  • living in a care home

For more information on application processes and entitlement go directly to the NHS website at

Or visit the Citizens Advice website at

In the next edition we intend to explain how parents with school-age children and low incomes can access ‘free school meal’ provision.

Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit