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NHS Low Income Scheme

If you have a low income, the NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for:

  • NHS prescription charges
  • NHS dental treatment charges
  • the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment
  • NHS wigs and fabric supports (check with your hospital for their arrangements for supplying NHS wigs)

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 through the NHS Low Income Scheme. 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.

We will normally assess your application within 18 working days from the date we get your form.

Applying online

We are 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.

To apply, you must be at least one of the following:

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

Before you apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme, we recommend you read the guidance under 'How applications are assessed'. Apply online for the NHS Low Income Scheme

Who can apply

Anyone can apply as long as they do not have savings or investments over a certain limit. 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 (£24,000 if you live in Wales)

Who does not need to apply

You do not need to apply if you're already entitled to full help with health costs.

You already get full help with health costs if you or your partner get:

  • 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

You are also entitled to full help if you are named on, or entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate.

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

If you're unable to apply online

If you're unable to apply online, you need to complete an HC1 form and post it back to us.

Before you apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme, we recommend you read the guidance under 'How applications are assessed'

If you live in England:

You can download and print an HC1 form (PDF: 634KB) or order an HC1 form online and it will be posted to you.

If you live in Scotland:

You can download and print an HC1 form (PDF: 124KB), or you can get an HC1 form from Jobcentres, GP practices, pharmacies and Citizens Advice.

If you live in Wales:

You can download an HC1 form from the Welsh Government website.

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 form from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, dentists and opticians.

If you need help

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

Find out about call charges

Where to send your HC1

NHS Low Income Scheme
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN 

You will need to use a stamp.

Renew your certificate

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.

How applications are assessed

When calculating the amount of help you may receive under the Low Income Scheme a comparison is made between your weekly needs (which we call requirements) and your weekly income to determine how much, if anything you have to pay towards your health costs.

Weekly requirements are a personal allowance intended to reflect all your day to day living expenses, plus any housing costs you are personally liable to pay such as Council Tax, rent or mortgage. 

You get full help when your income is either:

  • less than, or the same, as your living requirements
  • more than your living requirements, up to half of the current cost of a prescription in England

As an example, your weekly income could be £105.87 and your requirements £106.65 per week. As your requirements are more than your income, you would be eligible for help.

Evidence to support your application


If you're employed, you will need to include proof of your earnings with your HC1 application form:

  • if you get paid weekly or fortnightly, you will need to provide your 5 most recent payslips
  • if you get paid monthly or four-weekly, you will need to provide your 2 most recent payslips

If you cannot provide the payslips we need, you can complete the LIS82 proof of income form (PDF: 238KB) and send it with your application.

If you are self-employed, you'll need to send your profit and loss accounts for a period representing at least 6 months. The period they cover must end within 12 months of the date of your claim or, if you're claiming a refund, within 12 months of the date the charges were paid.

If you cannot send profit and loss accounts, you can send a trading account showing your business receipts and expenses for the period ending within 12 months before the date of the claim.

You'll also need to complete self-employment proof of income form LIS61 (PDF: 342KB) and send it with your application.

If the business has been trading for less than a year, or the trading pattern has recently changed, the assessment period will be adjusted to reflect this.


If you're a student, you need to include evidence of all grants, bursaries and awards you get. Normally this will consist of an award notice showing how much money you get.

If you applied for a student loan, we need to see a copy of the financial assessment that was carried out, regardless of whether a loan was actually awarded.

The full amount of student loan available to you will be included as income in your assessment. This includes the income-assessed and the non-income assessed loan elements, regardless of whether an application was made for both elements, and any assessed contributions to the loan regardless of whether they are actually paid.

The outcome of your application

We will normally assess your application within 18 working days of receiving your form.

If you're entitled to help you will get one of the following:

  • an HC2 certificate for full help with health costs, including free NHS prescriptions
  • an HC3 certificate for limited help with health costs, which shows how much you have to pay towards your health costs

You should get your certificate within 4 weeks of applying. It will usually be valid for between 6 months and 5 years, depending on your circumstances.

Ask for a review

If you think your application has been assessed incorrectly, you can contact us on 0300 330 1343 and ask for your claim to be reviewed.

You can also send your request by:


Write to us at:
Low Income Scheme
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne

You will need to include:

  • your certificate number
  • your full name
  • your date of birth
  • your address, including postcode
  • your telephone number
  • a brief description of why you think your application was assessed incorrectly

Apply for a refund (HC5 form)

If you paid for treatment before you applied to the NHS Low Income Scheme, you might be able to claim a refund.

Refunds have to be claimed within 3 months of the date you paid the charge or had a sight test.

Prescription refunds

Ask your pharmacist, hospital or doctor for an NHS receipt form FP57 when you pay - you cannot get one later. The form tells you what to do.

Refunds of other health costs

For refunds of other health costs, you need to complete an HC5 form and send it back to us. The form you fill in depends on the country you live in.

If you live in England

Print, complete and post the relevant form:NHS dental treatment: HC5(D) (PDF: 116KB)Sight test, glasses or contact lenses: HC5(O) (PDF: 122KB)Necessary costs of travel to receive NHS treatment: HC5(T) (PDF: 101KB)NHS wigs or fabric supports: HC5(W) (PDF: 110KB)

You can also order a form online and we'll post it to you. The HC5(W) form cannot be ordered online. Call 0300 330 1343 and we will post the form to you.

Find out about call charges 

If you live in Scotland 

Download and print the HC5 - Scotland refund form (PDF: 80KB) and post it back to us.

You can also get an HC5 from your GP practice or pharmacy. 

If you live in Wales

Visit the Wales help with health costs website to download leaflets and forms.

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

You might be able to get an HC5 from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, GP practices, dentists or opticians.