Help with health costs for students

Most health treatment is free under the NHS but there can be charges for some services and treatments such as prescriptions, sight tests, glasses/contact lenses, dental treatment and wig or fabric supports.

As a student you have to pay these charges, unless you fall into certain groups:

  • If you’re under 19 you can get free prescriptions, sight tests, vouchers for glasses and dental treatment wherever you study or live in the UK.
  • Prescriptions in Wales are free for people registered with a Welsh GP, or Welsh patients who have an English GP, with an accompanying entitlement card, who get their prescriptions from a Welsh pharmacy. Wigs and appliances are also free in Wales. If you are under 25 and living in Wales you can get free NHS dental examinations.
  • Prescriptions in Scotland are free. If you study or live in Scotland you can get a free NHS eye examination and a free NHS dental check, if you’re examined in Scotland, whatever your age.*
  • All prescriptions dispensed in Northern Ireland are free as are wigs and surgical appliances.
  • If you fall into some other groups you may receive full or partial help with health costs – check to see if you are in one of these groups on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

*In Scotland look out for the NHS minor ailment service at your community pharmacy where you may be able to get free advice and treatment e.g. for hay fever. Find out if you are eligible on the NHS24 Scotland website.

NHS Low Income Scheme

If you don’t fall into one of the groups above you may be able to get help through the means-tested NHS Low Income Scheme. You may be able to get full (an HC2 certificate) or partial help (an HC3 certificate) through this scheme. This scheme may also help with necessary costs of travel to receive care under an NHS consultant.

To get help under the NHS Low Income Scheme for dental work you must recieve treatment from an NHS dentist. Register with an NHS dentist as soon as you arrive at university, don’t wait until you need treatment.

How to apply

  • In England, Wales and Scotland look on the NHS Business Services Authority website for details of how to obtain a form for your particular UK country.
  • In Northern Ireland look on the NI Direct website for more information and to download a form.
  • The Student Specific Low Income Scheme FAQs on the NHS Business Services Authority website are useful wherever you live or study in the UK. They will help you in filling in the HC1 Form and also give you tips about the best time to apply according to your circumstances.
  • The HC1 Form is less daunting than it looks to complete. Go through it systematically – you will probably find that you answer ‘no’ to most questions.
  • Remember to supply any documents for which you are asked.


  • If you’ve already paid for health costs and you become entitled to help under the Scheme you can claim refunds, except for prescription charges, on form HC5. Ask for receipts after treatment.
  • Check the NHS Business Services Authority website to find out how to obtain the Form HC5 in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • In Northern Ireland you can get a Form HC5 from your local social security office.
  • For prescriptions you must get a receipt at the time you collect the prescription (form FP57 in England) – you can’t go back and get one later. The receipt tells you what to do to get a refund.

Prescription Pre-payment Certificates

If your income is too high to get help under the NHS Low Income Scheme and you need a lot of prescriptions, you might be better off by buying a Pre-payment Certificate (PPC) in England. If you will have to pay for more than 3 prescription items in 3 months, or more than 13 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a PPC. The NHS Business Services Authority website tells you how to apply for a PPC in England and how much it will cost. You can pay monthly by Direct Debit for a 12 month PPC.

You won’t need a PPC if you are in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales because prescriptions are free there.

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