HC2 Certificate: Get help with NHS health costs if you have a Low Income

Monday, May 23, 2022  by Winner Adebayo

If you are not automatically entitled to get the medical help that you need, the NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for NHS costs depending on your household income and outgoings.

This information sheet includes:

  1. what is NHS Low Income Scheme?
  2. guide to HC2 certificates
  3. who is eligible to apply
  4. how to apply, renew and replace your HC2 or HC3 certificate.


What is NHS Low Income Scheme?

The Low Income Scheme provides income-related help to people who are not exempt from charges but who may be entitled to full or partial help if they have a low income.

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)

You could be eligible depending on your household income and outgoings. You do not have to be claiming benefits to apply.

If you have applied to the NHS Low Income Scheme and been issued with an HC2 or HC2W certificate you are entitled to free prescriptions and free dental treatment, while the certificate is valid.

Who is eligible for an HC2 certificate?

You can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme if you have a low income.

Anyone can apply as long as they do not have savings or investments over a certain limit. You may qualify for an HC2 certificate under the NHS Low Income Scheme if you or your partner (or both):

  • live in England and your savings, investments or property (not including where you live) are no more than:

    • £23,250 for people who live permanently in a care home (£24,000 if you live in Wales)
    • £16,000 for everyone else (including students over 18 and under 60)
  • are an asylum seeker when you first start receiving support and housing from the Home Office

  • are a refused asylum seeker (this is someone whose claim for asylum has been refused and any subsequent appeals have been unsuccessful)

  • have limited leave to enter or remain subject to a condition that you cannot have recourse to public funds

  • do not currently have leave to remain in the UK (undocumented)

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

How to apply for free NHS treatment

By now, if you’re sure of your eligibility for the NHS Low Income Scheme based on your household income and outgoings, you’re probably curious about how to apply.

To get an HC2 certificate, you first have to fill in an HC1 form. You will be asked personalised questions based on your circumstances and get a reference number to use if you have any queries. NHS will normally assess your application within 18 working days of receiving your form.

The NHS will take your total household income, Council Tax and housing costs into account. The help you're entitled to depends on where you live and the criteria listed above.

Apply Online

To make an online application, go to the NHS Business Services Authority website. It only takes around 20 minutes to complete your application HERE.

You can only apply online if you do not have capital or savings of over £6,000. To apply online for the NHS Low Income Scheme, you must be at least one of the following:

  • A pensioner
  • A student
  • Earning a wage
  • Receiving state benefits
  • Living in a care home

Apply by post

You need to complete an HC1 form and post it back to NHS Business Services Authority.

If you live in England: You can download and print an HC1 form (PDF: 452KB) or order an HC1 form online.  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 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 from Jobcentres, NHS hospitals, dentists and opticians.

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.

Can I apply if I have dependents?

Your partner and any dependent children under 20 included on your benefit or tax credit claim are also entitled to the same help while your HC2 certificate is valid.

How long is the HC2 certificate valid for?

Certificates are usually valid for periods of between six months to five years, depending on your circumstances. Make sure you know when the certificate expires.

If you still need help with your health costs when your certificate expires, you must re-apply by completing a new HC1 form. If you live in England, you can check your NHS exemption status.

Click HERE to check if your exemption certificate:

  • is still valid or will expire soon
  • entitles you to free NHS prescriptions
  • entitles you to free NHS dental check-ups and treatment

What happens after I claim a certificate?

You will qualify for full help with health costs HC2 certificate (which includes free NHS prescriptions), if your income is less than or equal to your requirements, or your income is greater than your requirements by no more than half the current English prescription charge.

You will qualify for limited help with health costs HC3 certificate if your income is greater than your requirements by more than half the current English prescription charge. The HC3 certificate shows how much you have to pay for your health costs.

Are HC2 Certificates Public Funds?

The restriction of most visas is that there is “no recourse to public funds” and thus not able to claim mainstream benefits. A person will have no recourse to public funds when they are 'subject to immigration control', as defined in section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

So the main question is even if you are eligible for an HC2 certificate, are you in violation of your visa conditions?

HC2 certificates are not classed as public funds. This means that if your immigration leave is subject to a “no public funds” condition, you can apply for the certificates if you meet the criteria under the NHS Low Income Scheme. Pregnant women and families on a low income are entitled to receive some NHS services free of charge regardless of their immigration status.

Proving you’re entitled to free treatment

If you’re entitled to free treatment, you’ll be asked to show written proof that you don’t have to pay for your treatment. You’ll also be asked to sign a form.

Checks are made on free treatment claims. If you claim when you’re not entitled, even by mistake, you could face a penalty charge of £100 plus the cost of your treatment. That’s why it’s important you know your entitlement before you visit the doctor.

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 NHS Business Services Authority. The form you fill in depends on the country you live in.

What’s Next

More information on the NHS low-income scheme is available via the NHS costs helpline 0300 330 1343 or the NHS website or for Northern Ireland the NIdirect website.

Now you know how to save some money with access to free NHS prescriptions, NHS dental treatment and other NHS costs depending on your financial circumstances!

This article is correct as of the date it was published. It is important to get up-to-date advice, reach out to relocation support at https://trymaze.com/pricing for help.

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