The NHS Low Income Scheme

If you or your partner are on a low income and have capital of under £16,000, or £23,250 if you live permanently in a care home, you may qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). Both you and your partner could get either full or partial help with health costs. It covers:

  • prescription costs
  • dental costs
  • eye tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • help with the cost of travel to and from hospital or other NHS medical appointments
  • NHS wigs and fabric supports.

To apply, fill in form HC1, available from NHS hospitals, chemists and local benefit offices, or direct from the NHS website. You could also get it from your local Jobcentre Plus office or NHS hospital. If you qualify, you’ll be sent a certificate telling you what you can get and for how long.

Guarantee Pension Credit

You don’t need to apply for the NHS LIS if you or your partner already receive Guarantee Pension Credit, as this entitles you to full help with health costs. Take your benefit letter to appointments as proof of eligibility.

Claiming a refund

You might be able to get a refund on some health costs paid before you applied for the NHS LIS or before you started receiving Guarantee Pension Credit. 

You can get a refund on any prescription charges you have to pay while you wait for your certificate. You can also do this for any charges you’ve paid in the three months before you applied for the NHS LIS. Just ask the chemist for an NHS refund receipt – this is called the FP57 form. You should ask for it when you pay, as you can’t get the form later.

You can claim a refund on other charges paid within the last three months by filling in the relevant HC5 form. Call 0300 330 1343 or visit the NHS Low Income Scheme webpage to get the relevant HC5 form.

Prescriptions

Prescriptions are free if you’re 60 or over, or have certain medical conditions.

Opticians

You can have a free NHS eye test at least every two years if you’re 60 or over.

If you or your partner receive Guarantee Pension Credit, you can get vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

Some high street opticians offer reductions on the price of glasses for over-60s, so it's worth checking before you choose where to buy your glasses.

Dentists

You can get help with some or all of your dental care costs. If you or your partner receives Guarantee Pension Credit, you can both get free NHS dental care.

Hearing tests

NHS hearing tests are free and can be booked through your GP. If you can’t get to a face-to-face hearing test without help, you may be eligible for a free check at home. Ask your GP for details.

RNID provides a free short hearing check over the phone – call 0844 800 3838. It's not a substitute for a full hearing test, but can be useful as a quick first check.

If you have an NHS hearing aid, you can get free batteries and repairs from any NHS hearing aid service. Ask your audiologist about services in your area.

Vaccinations

If you’re 50 or over, or if you're under 50 and have certain medical conditions, you can get a free annual flu jab. If you’re 65 or over, you can get a free pneumococcal jab to protect against illnesses such as pneumonia.

You’ll also be eligible for a free shingles vaccine if you’re 70 or 78. In addition, anyone who qualified for the vaccine in the first three years of the programme, but missed out, can still get it until their 80th birthday. This includes people in their 70s born after 1 September 1942, and people aged 79.

Getting to hospital

If you’re receiving Guarantee Pension Credit or have an NHS LIS certificate, you may be entitled to help with travel costs if you’ve been referred for an appointment by your GP or dentist. If you have a medical need for someone to accompany you, you should also be able to claim travel costs for them. 

You can claim back travel costs by completing form HC5 – you can get it from the NHS website. If you need to be paid before you travel, check with your GP or the hospital in advance. You should claim back any costs within three months.

Next steps

Check if you qualify for the NHS LIS on the NHS website.

Read our guide Pension Credit or call our Helpline to see if you qualify for Guarantee Pension Credit.

To find out more about help with health costs, visit the NHS website.

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