Help with health costs

Bills can mount up when you are having treatment for cancer, especially if you're unable to work or have all the normal expenses that come with being a student. However, there is help available when it comes to meeting certain health costs.

Help with health costs

Which health costs are covered?

There are a range of health-related costs that you may be able to get help with, where these are not already free of charge. These include:

  • prescriptions
  • NHS dental treatment, including check-ups
  • sight tests, including mobile sight tests
  • glasses or contact lenses
  • travel to receive NHS treatment
  • wigs and fabric supports, for example abdominal and spinal supports.

It's important to know that regardless of your income, there are no prescription charges for anyone who is having treatment for cancer. Ask your doctor or hospital for a medical exemption (MedEx) certificate application. This needs to be countersigned by your GP, consultant or doctor.

Qualifying for support

To receive help with your health costs it is likely that you will be on a low income and receiving certain benefits. Many of these benefits (such as Income Support and tax credits) are being replaced with the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) between 2013 and 2022. This will mean you will receive a new single monthly benefit instead.

You may be entitled to help with health costs (such as free NHS prescriptions, free dental treatment, free wigs and fabric supports) if:

  • you get UC and have no earnings of £435 or less during the most recent assessment period
  • you get UC, which includes an element for a child and/or limited capability for work or limited capability for work-related activity (see our factsheet on Employment and Support Allowance), or earnings of £935 or less during the most recent assessment period. 

Read our information about this new benefit by downloading the Universal Credit factsheet.

NHS Low Income Scheme

If you're on a low income you may also be able to get help through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). You can apply for this provided you don't have savings of more than £16,000 (or £23,250 for anyone who lives permanently in a care home).

Certificates and application forms

You will come across the following forms before receiving help with health costs: HC1 form, HC2 certificate (‘full help’) and HC3 (‘partial help’) certificate. 

To claim a full refund of NHS charges (except prescription charges) including dental treatment, sight test, travel costs, NHS wig or fabric supports, you will need to fill in form HC5.

In order to apply for help with health costs you will first need to fill out an HC1 form. This form is available from Jobcentre Plus offices, NHS hospitals, doctors, dentists or opticians. You can also get hold of the forms above by calling 0300 123 0849.

If you are on a qualifying benefit you just need to take proof of this to your hospital.

Non-UK residents

If you are visiting the UK then you may not be exempt from charges and will instead have to pay for any NHS treatment you have. Find out more by visiting the NHS Choices website.

Updated August 2016, next review due 2017.