GP Zone

What is the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme?

If you're unsure as to whether you qualify for support either based on your medical or financial needs, in the first instance please contact the Centralised Booking Service at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust on 01872 252211. 

The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) is part of the NHS Low Income Scheme which also covers other expenses such as prescriptions and glasses. Through it, financial help with travel costs may be claimed by patients who are referred for NHS treatment by their GP (or sometimes by their dentist). Visits to GP surgeries and dentists for routine care, as well as most A&E attendances, are not included.

Who can claim?

If you receive any of the following benefits you qualify for a full refund of necessary travel costs:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit with Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit with a disability or severe disability element
  • Child Tax Credit (if the award letter confirms income is below the relevant threshold)
  • Pension Credit - Guarantee Credit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are not on these specific benefits but have a low income, you may still be eligible for a full or partial refund through the NHS low income scheme. You can apply for an eligibility assessment for this by using an HC1 ‘Claim For Help With Health Costs’ form (for how to obtain one, see further information below).

How much can I claim?

If you qualify, you will be entitled to a full or partial refund of necessary travel costs equivalent to the cheapest reasonable method of travel, which in most cases will be public transport. Taxi fares will not normally be paid unless agreed in advance. If patients use their own cars, mileage rates will be set at the advisory fuel rates specified by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for company cars as a proxy for the cost of fuel at the time of travel. Information of the current HMRC rates can be found here

What documents will I need to make a claim?

You must provide your hospital appointment card or letter, original copies of any travel receipts, and proof that you are on a qualifying benefit (or proof of eligibility for the NHS low income scheme or NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate, if applicable).

Is there a time limit for making a claim?

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, claims must be made within three months.

Can I claim if I am visiting a patient in hospital?

No. The NHS scheme does not cover visitors, but you may be able to apply for a loan or grant from the Social Fund through your local Jobcentre Plus office.

Can I claim for someone to go with me?

Only if an escort has been agreed in advance on medical grounds or if a child of 16 or under is being accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What happens if the payment office is closed on the day of my appointment or I forget to bring my documents?

If you are unable to make a claim on the day you attend, you may be able to return for a cash payment at a later date. Otherwise you will need to use an HC5(T) refund form – see further information below. Please note refunds paid in this way take several weeks to process.

How can I get further information?

The hospital where you are receiving treatment can advise you about making a travel costs claim (at most hospitals this will be the general office or cashier’s office), and they will be able to supply the correct forms. Information and advice can also be obtained from the NHS helpline on 0300 330 1343, individual hospital websites and the national NHS website.

Can I claim if I am receiving NHS treatment at a private or independent hospital or treatment centre?

Yes. As there are no cashier facilities at these sites, claims must be made using an HC5(T) refund claim form as above.

What should I do if I am not happy with a decision that has been made about my claim?

Please contact the relevant Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS):