Help with healthcare costs

Lesley Dobson / 13 April 2015

When you’re ill or need an operation it can make your bank balance look pretty poorly too. Follow our guide to health costs help to ease the strain on your wallet.

There are different schemes and benefits to help people who are struggling to pay their normal bills and pay for prescriptions, travel and other costs. Start by finding out which apply to you.

If you or your partner are 60 or over, or already receive any of the following benefits you’re already entitled to full help with your health costs. These include free NHS prescriptions and free NHS eye sight tests if you live in England. If you are 60 or over and live in Wales, you are entitled to free NHS dental examinations as long as these are carried out in Wales.

The benefits are:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

The Government’s Low Income Scheme is also there to help with health costs. You can apply to this scheme as long as you don’t have savings or investments above the capital limit.

If you live in England the capital limit is £23,250 for people who are permanently in a care home, and £16,000 for everyone else.

The capital limits for people living in Scotland are £23,250, and £16,00, and in Wales the limits are £24,000 and £16,000.

The scheme works by giving full or partial financial help for health care to people who have a low income. The financial help provided by the scheme includes NHS prescriptions, dental treatment, eyesight tests, glasses and contact lenses, travel to a site where they will have NHS treatment, and NHS wigs etc.

You can make a claim for a certificate before you need treatment, or, if you’ve already paid for your treatment you can apply to have the money refunded when you apply for a certificate.

For more information on the Low Income Scheme go to the NHS Business Services Authority website at

If you have a medical exemption certificate – because you have particular medical conditions – all your NHS prescriptions will be free. These conditions include diabetes insipidus, diabetes, epilepsy (if your treatment involves continuous anticonvulsive therapy), and cancer. For a full list of the conditions included go to

Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC)

If you’re under 60, and so still have to pay for your prescriptions, and don’t qualify for free prescriptions through any other route, there’s still a way to reduce the cost.

If you need more than 12 medicines on prescription a year, you can save money by buying a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC). Each prescribed medicine costs £8.05. A three-month PPC costs £29.10, and a 12-month PPC costs £104.00.

This means that if you need two prescription medicines every month you’ll save over £85 a year with a 12-month PPC, and over £15 with a three-month PPC.

If you need four prescription medicines each month you’ll save over £280 a year with a 12-month PPC, and over £65 with a three-month PPC.

For more information and to order a PPC call 0300 330 1341. Or you can buy or renew a PPC at

You’ll find more useful information in the online NHS HC11 booklet, which is online. It is quite a comprehensive booklet, so it might be useful to download it to your computer.

The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS)

Travelling to and from hospital and other health appointments can really add up, especially if you need to attend appointments often. The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme may help with your travel costs, however you must meet certain conditions. For example, your appointment must be for treatment for which you have been referred by your GP, dentist or hospital consultant. And it must be for NHS-funded treatment. You can find out more about the conditions that mean you can qualify for help from this scheme by going to

Hospital Car Service

This is a volunteer car service. Volunteer drivers, with their own cars, will drive patients to hospital appointments, wait for them for a set time, and then drive them home again. There is a mileage charge for this, but it will usually be less than the cost of a taking a taxi.

This service may be known by other names, including Voluntary Ambulance Car (VACS), Community Voluntary Cars, or Community Transport, depending on the hospital, or voluntary body that has arranged this service. To find out whether there is a hospital car service in your area, contact the hospital you’ll be going to for appointments, or ask at your GP’s surgery.

Ambulance Car Service

Patient Transport Service

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.