The NHS Low Income Scheme and Pension Guarantee Credit

If you’re on a low income and have savings 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). This could entitle you to either full or partial help with your health costs. It covers:

  • prescription costs
  • dental costs
  • eye tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • help with the cost of travel to and from hospital
  • 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 (nhsbsa.nhs.uk, 0300 330 1343). If you qualify, you’ll be sent a certificate telling you what you’re eligible for and how long for.

You can get a refund on prescription charge you have to pay while you wait for your certificate. Just ask the chemist for an NHS refund receipt (FP57).

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

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 claim a refund on charges paid within the last three months by filling in an HC5 form. Call 0300 330 1343 or visit nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-low-income-scheme to get an 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 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

If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit, you can 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.

Action on Hearing Loss provides a free short hearing check over the phone (0844 800 3838) and online. It's not a substitute for a full hearing test, but can be useful as a quick first check.

Vaccinations

If you’re 65 or over, or if you're under 65 and have certain medical conditions, you’ll be eligible for:

  • a free annual flu jab
  • a free pneumonia jab.

You’ll also be eligible for a free shingles vaccine if you’re 70 or 78. In addition, anyone who was eligible for the vaccine in the first three years of the programme but missed out remains eligible 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 (nhsbsa.nhs.uk, 0300 330 1343), or if you need to be paid before you travel, check with your GP or the hospital in advance.

Next steps

You can find out more about help with health costs at nhs.uk/healthcosts

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