I can't afford...Healthcare
Find out if you could get free healthcare – or reduce your prescription and treatment costs – in just a few minutes!
Everyone should have access to healthcare – regardless of how much you earn or what your budget looks like each month. Read on to find out exactly where to turn for help.
Natasha was really worried as she needed some dental treatment but wasn’t sure how she was going to afford it. By using BudgetSmart, she realised she was entitled to free dental care with the NHS because she’d had a baby just six months ago.
Your situation might be different to Natasha’s, but you may still be entitled to free healthcare if you meet certain criteria.
NHS prescription costs
From 1st April, certain NHS prescription charges in England will increase by 30p to £9.65. The cost of prescription 'season tickets' - which allow you to prepay for multiple prescriptions over a set period - is also rising. If you regularly pay for prescriptions, it's worth checking if you should buy a certificate now before prices go up.
Charges for wigs and fabric supports will also be increased in line with inflation.
Details of the revised charges for 2023 - 2024 are listed below:
- Single charge: £9.65
- 3-month PPC: £31.25
- 12-month PPC: £111.60
- HRT PPC: £19.30
Wigs and fabric supports
- Surgical bra: £31.70
- Abdominal or spinal support: £47.80
- Stock modacrylic wig: £78.15
- Partial human hair wig: £207.00
- Full bespoke human hair wig: £302.70
Help with the costs of dental care
- Free dental care
You don’t have to pay for NHS dental services if you fit one or more brackets of the criteria. To see if you’re entitled to free dental care in England, click here.
- NHS Low Income scheme
The NHS Low Income scheme is there to support you if you’re on a low income and need help paying for NHS costs such as prescriptions, dental treatments, the opticians, travel costs to get to/from NHS appointments and NHS wigs/fabric supports. You must be a pensioner, a student, earning a wage, receiving state benefits or living in a care home to apply for this. You can apply here.
- Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS)
If you're referred to hospital or another NHS premises for specialist NHS treatment or diagnostic tests by a doctor, dentist or another primary care health professional, you may be able to claim a refund on reasonable travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS). The full breakdown can be found here.
- NHS exemption certificate
An NHS exemption certificate helps you to pay for NHS costs, such as your prescriptions or dental treatment. Click here for more on this service. Note that medical exemptions differ in Scotland and Wales.
- Exemptions for pregnant women
Pregnant women and women who have had a baby in the last 12 months get free NHS dental treatment. You may have to show proof, such as a maternity exemption certificate (MatEx), a maternity certificate (MATB1), or your baby's birth certificate.
- Save money with a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC)
If you know you'll have to pay for a lot of NHS prescriptions, it may be cheaper to buy a prescription prepayment certificate - also known as a PPC. It covers all your NHS prescriptions, including NHS dental prescriptions, no matter how many items you need. You can find out more here.
Help with optical costs
- Free eye tests
You could be entitled to a free NHS sight test. Find out more here.
- NHS optical vouchers
You're entitled to an optical voucher for help towards the cost of your glasses or contact lenses if you meet the correct criteria. You can find out more here.
- Speak to your employer
You may find your employer will contribute towards the cost of an eye test and, in some cases, there may be work schemes that cover the full cost.
If you’re receiving Universal Credit
You qualify for help with health costs if (on the date you claim):
- you receive Universal Credit and either had no earnings or had net earnings of £435 or less in your last Universal Credit assessment period
- you receive Universal Credit, which includes an element for a child, or yourself (or your partner) had limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA), and you either had no earnings or net earnings of £935 or less in your last Universal Credit assessment period
Visit the GOV.UK website for more information about the Universal Credit assessment period.
The Blue Badge Scheme
Blue Badges help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination. You can apply for a badge for yourself, on behalf of somebody else or an organisation that transports people that need a Blue Badge.
Your Blue Badge usually lets you park for free. You can park for free on streets with parking meters or pay-and-display machines for as long as you need to and in disabled parking bays on streets for as long as you need to, unless a sign says there’s a time limit.
If you've got a Blue Badge, you might be eligible for extra concessions, like exemption from road tax, road tolls or access to town centres where other vehicles are restricted.
You can find out if you’re eligible here.
Health Adjustment Passport
If you have a disability or health condition, a Health Adjustment Passport can be used to help identify what support and changes you might need when you’re in work – or moving into work. This could include support from Access to Work, such as funding for specialist equipment, support getting to and from work and support when in work. Find out more about the Health Adjustment Passport here.
If you work in healthcare, the Armed Forces, or the emergency services
Blue Light Card
A Blue Light Card costs £4.99 for two years and you’ll need your work ID or a recent payslip to prove you’re eligible. It offers discounts at over 15,000 high street and online stores and covers lots of areas including insurance, phones, cars, and days out. Apply for your Blue Light Card here.
Defence Privilege Card
The Defence Discount Service provides discounts both online and on the high street for members of the Armed Forces, Veterans and Armed Forces Community. It’s the home of the Defence Privilege Card, which is a vetted discount card that can be used in stores, restaurants, and venues to obtain discounts. Find out more about the Defence Discount Service and the Defence Privilege Card here.
Looking after your health
- Going to the gym
While it costs to work out and go to the gym, you can get discounted rates of up to 73% through your local council-run leisure centre, rather than an independent group. You’ll need to apply for the discount through your local leisure centre. Get in touch with your local council to find out more.
- Support to quit smoking
NHS Stop Smoking Services vary across the country, but many people don’t realise that their GP can also help them to stop. You can find your local GP here. You may also have a nearby Stop Smoking Service, which provides free advice and can refer you to your GP. You can search for your nearest service here.
Head to BudgetSmart for all the support you need to maximise your income in other areas of your budget: