Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Help with health costs

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

About this information

Most NHS treatment is free, including all prescription costs, but there are a number of things for which there may be charges. This information tells you what you might be able to get help with, and whether you might be entitled to financial help.

There's a quick guide to help with health costs on the Scottish government website

Which health costs can you get help with

You may be able to get help with:

You will need to show evidence to prove you are eligible for help. You may be able to get some prescriptions and treatment without proof, but you will usually have to provide it later. If you can’t do this, you may have to pay the original costs plus a penalty charge

Help with dental treatment

Everyone is entitled to free NHS dental check-ups.

You're entitled to other free NHS dental treatment if, at the start of the treatment, you're:

  • under 26
  • pregnant, or have had a baby during the last 12 months. This includes if you have had a miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy, or your baby was stillborn
  • getting or are entitled to get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.
  • getting Universal Credit and your income is below certain limits.

Your partner and children will also be entitled to free treatment if they are included in your benefit award.

If you're named on a valid HC2 certificate under the NHS low income scheme, you'll be entitled to free dental treatment.

You might be entitled to free dental treatment, depending on your income if you get:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit with a disabled worker or a severe disability element.

If you're getting Universal Credit (UC), you'll only be entitled to free dental treatment if your income is below certain limits during the assessment period for UC. You can get help if you get UC as a single person or as a member of a couple and:

  • your UC does not include a child element or limited capability for work and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £435 or less
  • your UC includes an element for a child and/or limited capability for work, and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £935 or less.

You can apply for a refund if you had to pay for dental treatment while your entitlement to UC entitlement was being checked, provided you are entitled to free dental treatment on UC. Find out more about Universal Credit.

More about help with dental charges on the Scottish government website.

You might have to show your dentist proof that you're entitled to free treatment. If your circumstances change before treatment ends, you will still be able to get free treatment.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get free dental treatment on the grounds of low income. Check if you can get help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Help with eye tests

Everyone in Scotland is entitled to free NHS eye tests.

Most people aged between 16 and 59 can have a free eye test every two years. But if you have diabetes or are sight impaired, you can have a free test every year.

People aged under 16 or over 59 can also get a free eye test every year.

More about free eye tests on the NHS inform website

Help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses

You will be entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses if you are:

  • under 16
  • under 19 and in full-time education
  • aged 17 or 18, you may be able get help if you live in a household that gets Universal Credit
  • needing complex lenses
  • entitled to a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • named on a valid HC2 certificate issued under the NHS Low Income Scheme
  • getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • getting Universal Credit and you income is below certain limits.

If you're entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses, you will get an NHS optical voucher. Your partner and children will also be entitled to a voucher if they are included in your benefit award.

You might be entitled to help, depending on your income, if you get:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit with a disabled worker or severe disability element.

If you're getting Universal Credit (UC), you'll only be entitled to help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses if your income is below certain limits during the assessment period for UC. You can get help if you get UC as a single person or as a member of a couple and:

  • your UC does not include a child element or limited capability for work, and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £435 or less
  • your UC includes a child element and/or limited capability for work, and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £935 or less.

You can apply for a refund if you had to pay for prescription glasses or contact lenses while your UC entitlement was being checked, provided you are entitled to help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses on UC. Find out more about Universal Credit.

More about optical vouchers on the Scottish government website.

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get help towards the costs of prescription glasses or contact lenses on the grounds of low income. Check if you can get help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Help with travel costs for NHS treatment

You can get help with essential travel costs to and from a place where you get certain types of NHS treatment if you:

  • get certain benefits
  • have a low income.

You can claim a refund of your travel costs by filling in form HC5 and giving it to the place you go to for NHS treatment. You must make a claim for a refund within 3 months. If you can't afford to pay your travel costs in advance, you can ask for an advance payment. You might be eligible for a short term advance of benefit or a budgeting loan from the Department for Work and Pensions.

You might also get help with travel costs over a certain limit if you live in the Scottish Highlands or islands.

If you need someone to travel with you for medical reasons, you might get their travel costs paid as well.

Travel costs if you get benefits or tax credits

You can get help with travel costs if you get:

  • a war or service disablement pension and need to go to hospital for treatment for that disability
  • Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit and your income is below certain limits.

Your partner and children will also be entitled to help if they’re included in your benefit award.

You might be entitled to help, depending on your income, if you get:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit with a disability element.

Travel costs if you get Universal Credit

If you're getting Universal Credit (UC), you'll only be entitled to help with the cost of travel if your income is below certain limits during the assessment period for UC.

You can get help if you get UC as a single person or part of a couple and:

  • your UC does not include a child element or limited capability for work, and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £435 or less
  • your UC includes a child element and/or limited capability for work, and you had earnings, or combined earnings, of £935 or less.

If you’re a young person in a household where someone responsible for you gets UC and meets one of the tests above, you can also get help with the cost of travel.

Travel costs if you live in the Scottish Highlands or islands

If you live in the Scottish Highlands or islands, there’s a maximum amount that you are expected to pay for travel costs. You can ask for a claim form at the clinic, hospital ward, or hospital cashier department.

Find out more about help with travel costs if you live in the Highlands and islands on the Scottish government website.

Travel costs if you have a low income

If you are not in one of the categories listed above, you might still be able to get help with your travel costs on the grounds of low income. Check if you can get help with health costs if you are on a low income.

Travel and food costs when your child is in hospital

If your child is under 18 and in hospital, you can claim back some of the costs of food and travel from the Young Patients Family Fund. This includes if your baby is in a neonatal unit. 

Find out how to claim from the Young Patients Family Fund on the Scottish government website.

Help with the cost of wigs and fabric supports

You can get a free NHS wig or fabric support, if you have been prescribed one, whatever your age, income or personal circumstances.

Help with the costs of food and vitamins

If  you're pregnant or have a child under 3, you might be able to get free vitamins and a Best Start Foods prepaid card to spend on:

  • milk
  • vegetables
  • eggs 
  • pulses - like beans and lentils.

Help with health costs if you are on a low income

If you have difficulty in meeting your health costs and do not qualify for any other kind of help, you may be able to get help under the NHS low income scheme.

The amount of help you get will depend on the amount of income you have. You might not be entitled to any help at all if you have too much capital. There are two types of certificate: a full help certificate (HC2), and a limited help certificate (HC3), which tells you how much you have to pay.

Full help certificate

If you are entitled to a full help certificate, you will get:

  • free NHS dental treatment, including check-ups
  • free NHS sight tests (including sight tests at home) and full value vouchers for glasses or contact lenses
  • repayment of necessary travel costs for hospital treatment
  • repayment of travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment
  • free NHS wigs and fabric supports.

Limited health certificate

If you are entitled to a limited help certificate, you may be able to get some help with the costs of:

  • dental treatment and check ups
  • private sight tests
  • vouchers for glasses or contact lenses
  • wigs and fabric supports
  • necessary travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment
  • travel costs if travelling abroad for treatment.

How to apply for help on the low income scheme

To apply for either a full help certificate (HC2) or a limited help certificate (HC3), complete form HC1, which is available from local benefit offices, NHS hospitals, dentists, opticians and pharmacists. Form HC1 can also be printed from the NHS Business Services Authority website . You do not have to wait until you need treatment before you apply for a certificate. Send the completed form HC1 to:

NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE1 6SN

Tel: 0300 330 1343 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday, 9am to 3pm)
Website: Contact form
Website: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk

More about the low income scheme on the Scottish government website

How to claim a refund under the low income scheme

If you do not have a certificate under the low income scheme when you pay a health charge, but think that you might be entitled to one, you can make a claim for a refund. You must make the claim within 3 months of making the payment yourself.

To claim a refund, you will need form HC5. The HC5 form can be printed from the NHS Business Services Authority website, or from local benefit offices, NHS hospitals and some practitioners. The forms should be sent to the NHS Business Services Authority – see above.

If you are entitled to help under the low income scheme, any refund due will be paid when you get your certificate.

Proof of entitlement to help with health costs

If you claim help with a health cost and you are unable to prove that you are entitled, your claim will be checked and you may have to pay a penalty charge if it is found that you were not entitled to help.

The penalty charge will be five times the charge that you should have paid, up to a maximum of £100. This is in addition to the original charge. For example, if you wrongly claimed for free dental treatment when the charge for the course of treatment is £30 you will have to pay a total of £130:

  • the original dental charge of £30 plus
  • the maximum penalty charge of £100.

If you fail to pay the penalty charge, the NHS can take action to recover the debt in court. The penalty charge will be increased by fifty per cent if you do not pay within 28 days of the date that the penalty notice is sent.

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?

Please tell us more about why our advice didn't help.

Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.