Health costs

If you are living with cancer, you may be able to get help with health costs. Find out more about financial support for things like prescriptions, wigs, and dental treatment.

Help with prescriptions

The help you can get for prescriptions is different across the UK.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free for everyone.

In England, prescriptions are free for anything related to cancer or its effects. You need to collect an FP92A form from your GP surgery and apply for a medical exemption certificate.

An exemption certificate lasts for 5 years and can be renewed if you are still eligible. Once you have the exemption certificate, you do not need to pay for any prescriptions. This includes prescriptions for medicines that are not related to your cancer treatment. You will need to show the exemption certificate to the pharmacist when you collect your medicines.

In England, if you are a carer, or someone who is not having cancer-related treatment, you can get help to pay for prescriptions in some situations. To find out more, visit the NHS England website.

Prescriptions pre-payment certificates in England

If you live in England and do not qualify for free prescriptions, you can buy a prescription pre-payment certificate. You pay a set price for prescriptions for 3 or 12 months, no matter how many you need. This will save you money if you need:

  • more than 3 prescriptions in 3 months
  • more than 11 prescriptions in a year.

You can buy the certificate online from GOV.UK or over the phone using a credit or debit card. Call the NHS Business Services Authority on 0300 330 1341 or textphone 18001 0300 330 1431.

The NHS Business Services Authority no longer sends out plastic certificates. They can send your certificate details by email, or you can print them at the end of the online process. You must show the pharmacist your certificate details when you collect your prescription.

Help with wigs and fabric supports

The help you can get to pay for wigs and fabric supports is different across the UK.

If you live in Scotland or Wales, you can get wigs and fabric supports free on the NHS. They are also provided free through the Health and Social Care services if you live in Northern Ireland. There are special arrangements for patients who are registered with GPs in Wales but have treatment in England.

In England, you can qualify for free wigs or fabric supports on the NHS if you:

  • are aged under 16
  • are aged 16 to 18 and in full-time educationn
  • are a hospital inpatient when the wig or fabric support is given to you
  • have a valid war pension and need the items for your war injury
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (this is called an HC2 certificate).

If you are named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (an HC3 certificate), you may get some help. We have more information about the NHS Low Income Scheme below.

You also qualify if you or your partner receive:

You are also eligible if you are under the age of 20 and the dependent of someone getting one of the benefits listed above.

If you are entitled to a free wig or fabric support, you should tell the person who fits it. You need to show proof that you qualify. For example, this could be the letter showing which benefits you get.

If you do not qualify for free wigs or fabric supports, you can find a list of costs at NHS.UK.

You may be able to reclaim the VAT on these items. Contact the HMRC VAT helpline on 0300 200 3700. You can also visit GOV.UK.

We have more information about benefits and financial support.

Help with the cost of dental care

Dental examinations

Help with the cost of dental care is different across the UK:

  • In England, there is a cost for NHS dental examinations. You may qualify for a free examination if you meet one or more criteria.
  • In Scotland, NHS dental examinations are free for everyone.
  • In Wales, you can get free NHS dental examinations if you are aged under 25 or over 60.
  • In Northern Ireland, there can be a charge for Health Service dental examinations. Visit nidirect.gov.uk for more information.

Dental treatment

In England, Scotland and Wales, you may qualify for free NHS dental treatment and dentures. In England, this includes your examination. You need to meet one or more of the criteria listed below when the dental treatment starts:

  • You are aged under 18
  • You are aged under 19 and are in full-time education
  • You are pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months. You need a maternity exemption certificate (MatEx). Speak to your doctor, midwife or health visitor to find out more.
  • You are being treated in an NHS hospital and a hospital dentist does the treatment (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges).
  • You have a valid war pension and need treatment for your war injury.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (this is called an HC2 certificate).

If you are named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (an HC3 certificate), you may get some help. There is more information below about the NHS Low Income Scheme.

You also qualify if you or your partner get:

You are also eligible if you are under the age of 20 and are the dependent of someone getting one of the benefits listed above.

You must show your dentist written proof that you do not have to pay for all or part of your dental treatment. For example, this could be the letter showing which benefits you get. You must also sign a form to confirm that you do not have to pay.

In Northern Ireland, you may be entitled to free Health Service dental treatment if you are on a low income or meet other criteria. For more information, visit nidirect.gov.uk.

Help with eye treatment

Help with the cost of sight tests is different across the UK.

Sight tests are free for everyone in Scotland.

You qualify for free NHS sight tests in England and Wales, and Health Service sight tests in Northern Ireland, if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are aged under 16.
  • You are aged under 19 and are in full-time education.
  • You are aged 60 or over.
  • You are registered blind or are partially sighted.
  • You have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma.
  • You are aged 40 or over and are the parent, brother, sister or child of someone with glaucoma
  • You are a prisoner on leave from prison
  • Your sight test is carried out through the hospital eye department
  • You receive a valid war pension and have eyesight issues due to your war injury
  • You have a low income and are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2 certificate).
  • You need complex or powerful lenses.
  • You get Income Support, the guarantee element of Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • You get Universal Credit and meet certain criteria.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.

If you are named on a valid NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (an HC3 certificate), you may get a reduced cost sight test. We have more information about the NHS Low Income Scheme.

You can ask about a home visit if you need help getting to your appointment because of your illness.

If you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you qualify for vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses if you meet one of the following criteria:

You have a low income and are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2 certificate) You may get a voucher if you are named on a valid NHS HC3 certificate for partial help with health costs.

The vouchers can be used with any optician. You will need to show proof that you qualify. For example, you could bring any letters showing which benefits you get.

NHS Low Income Scheme

This scheme helps people on a low income to afford their health costs. You do not have to be getting benefits to access this scheme. It is run by the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales and by the Health Service in Northern Ireland.

The scheme includes help with:

  • prescriptions
  • wigs and fabric supports
  • dental treatment
  • sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • travel to receive treatment.

You cannot qualify if you or your partner (or both) have more than £16,000 in savings. This does not include the place where you live. If you live permanently in a care home, the savings limit is:

  • £23,250 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • £24,000 in Wales.

How to claim the NHS Low Income Scheme

  • If you live in England or Scotland, call 0300 330 1343 and ask for an HC1 form, or visi nhsbsa.nhs.uk
  • If you live in Wales, call 0345 603 1108 and ask for an HC1 form, or visit gov.wales
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, download the HC1 form from nidirect.gov.uk. If you have reached State Pension age, the Pension Service will deal with your claim. You can contact them on 0800 587 0892.

You may also be able to get an HC1 form from:

You may be able to apply online for the NHS Low Income Scheme if:

  • you are aged over 60
  • you do not live with a partner
  • your only income is from a pension.

If you have already paid the healthcare costs, you can claim a refund using an HC5 form. You must apply within 3 months. You must also have the relevant receipt, such as an FP57 form for prescriptions.

Where you can get an HC5 form, and how to claim, is different depending on the country you live in. Visit nhsbsa.nhs.uk for more information on how to claim in your area.

Help with home adaptations equipment and services

Equipment to help you at home

You may need special equipment or aids to help you manage at home. For example, you may need a raised toilet seat or handrails. If your doctor or nurse agrees you need equipment, they can arrange this.

Your doctor or nurse may refer you to a social worker. You can also contact your local social services or social work department directly. They can arrange for a social worker or occupational therapist to assess your needs. They may be able to give you what you need for free.

You can also get general advice and information about all types of equipment from the DLF.

VAT exempt goods and services

If you have a long-term illness or are registered disabled, you do not have to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) on some products. These are products designed or adapted for your own personal or domestic use. For example, you may not have to pay VAT on items that help you move around.

VAT-exempt goods and services include:

  • adjustable beds
  • stair lifts
  • wheelchairs
  • medical appliances to help with severe injuries
  • alarms
  • Braille paper or low-vision aids (but not glasses or contact lenses)
  • building work such as widening doors or installing ramps, lifts or toilets.

For more information, visit GOV.UK or call 0300 200 3700.

Nursing home charges

If you pay for your own nursing home charges, you should check if you are entitled to financial help.

For example, you may be able to get NHS continuing healthcare. Continuing healthcare offers free care (funded by the NHS) for people who need a lot of ongoing, complex care. Ask a health or social care professional how you can apply for this. Before choosing a care home, you may want to find out more about continuing healthcare.

For more information, speak to your healthcare professional or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

About our information


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by Macmillan professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Sean Conroy, Macmillan Welfare Rights and Energy Advice Team Service Manager.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.