You may need to travel to hospital for NHS treatment, but if you are on a low income then you may struggle to afford the travel costs. Fortunately, under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme and the NHS Low Income Scheme, you can claim back your travel expenses. Read this guide to find out how to do it.
Who can claim a refund for travel costs to the hospital?
Only people who meet certain criteria will be eligible to request a refund for travel costs to the hospital. Usually, you must be receiving a benefit such as:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit with Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit with a disability element
- Child Tax Credit (but not eligible for Working Tax Credit)
- Pension Credit with Guarantee Credit
- War Disablement Pension
- Universal Credit (meeting further criteria)
Otherwise, you must have a sufficiently low income or a valid exemption certificate in order to qualify for a refund for your hospital travel costs. You can also claim a refund for travel costs for your child or a necessary escort. Your travel costs will only be refundable if you have a referral for secondary care (a separate appointment for further tests or treatment). You won’t be able to claim for routine check-ups, vaccinations, or out-of-hours urgent primary care. You also cannot claim a refund for travel costs if you are only visiting someone in hospital. If you are a dependant of someone receiving one of the above benefits, you can claim for your hospital travel expenses.
What hospital travel costs can you claim a refund for?
Generally, you are able to claim a refund if you meet the criteria above and you are attending the hospital to receive NHS treatment from a consultant. You can also claim for a companion’s travel costs if the consultant deems it medically necessary for them to come with you. You are also able to claim a refund for the cost of one return journey and one meal per day specifically in the case of travelling to visit a newborn baby in a neonatal unit when the baby is premature or ill. The hospital will only issue a refund if you use the cheapest mode of reasonable transport. This usually means public transport where appropriate. Other than bus or train fares, you may be able to get taxi fares or petrol costs reimbursed if the hospital agrees in advance. Usually, it does not include tolls or parking. However, you may be able to get a refund on parking if the hospital offers a discount for attending cancer treatment.
How do you claim a refund for travel costs to the hospital?
You must claim a refund for hospital travel costs within 3 months of your visit. To do this, you will need to submit an HC5 form to the place that you travelled to for the treatment. Inform staff at the time of the appointment that you are eligible for a refund of your travel costs and you may be able to collect the money if there is a cashier’s office. You will need to provide proof of your entitlement, such as a benefit award letter or HC2 or HC3 certificate. You will also need to provide evidence of your travel costs, such as tickets or receipts. If you cannot afford to pay in advance for travelling to the hospital, then there are a few other options. Find out if there is a local organization of volunteers who transport people to hospital appointments for free. Or you could contact the DWP to see if you are eligible for a Budgeting Loan or an advance benefit payment. You can then claim the refund back later as above.
Can you get help with travel costs for hospital treatment abroad?
If you travel abroad for treatment on the NHS, you can claim back some of the travel costs. This is usually only the leg of the journey from a residence to a port, such as an airport, ferry, or international train station. The part of your journey that is actually international comes under NHS foreign travel expenses. You can only claim for these costs if you agree on them before the journey with the people arranging your treatment. You may also be able to claim for the travel expenses for a companion if it is medically necessary for them to travel with you. In cases like these, travel costs are only eligible for reimbursement if the treatment is a result of a referral for secondary care.