Can I Get Free Healthcare, Dental Care & Eye Tests?
We all know that UK citizens are entitled to free healthcare in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). But many things, including prescriptions, dental treatment and eye tests come at a cost. There are also key differences between healthcare costs in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that you might not be aware of. There are ways you can get healthcare costs free – or substantially reduced!
Do I have to pay for Healthcare?
In England, a trip to your local GP, Walk-in Centre or Hospital is free. There are some medications that are free too. This includes medicines administered at your GP/hospital/walk-in centre, prescribed contraceptives and medicines supplied at a hospital or clinic for the treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
However, in England, most prescriptions unfortunately aren’t free to everyone. The same doesn’t apply if you’re registered at a GP in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – as all prescriptions are free.
Can I get free Prescriptions?
There are some eligibility criteria which could mean that you’re entitled to free prescriptions in England. You can get free prescriptions if you’re aged under 16 or over 60, in full-time education, pregnant or have had a baby in the past 12 months. You can also get financial assistance if you’re in possession of a medical exemption certificate (MedEx) for a specified medical condition/physical disability or in receipt of income support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Check the NHS website for more detailed information on eligibility criteria for free prescriptions in England.
In England, prescription charges are currently capped at £8.80 per item, but if you have a long-term health condition which requires regular prescribed medication, you can use an NHS Prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) to save yourself money in the long run.
The NHS Low Income Scheme
If you’re not eligible for free prescriptions based on the eligibility critera above you could look to apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme. You can apply for the scheme if your savings, investments or property are under £16,000. Depending on your circumstances you should consider applying for full help (HC2 certificate) or partial help (HC3 certificate).
If you’re on a very low (or non-existent) income, then you’ll likely qualify for one of the certificates. Qualifying will entitle you to free or discounted prescriptions, dental costs, eye care costs, healthcare travel costs and wigs/fabric support.
To apply fill out a HC1 form (below) – it’s quite lengthy but will be worth it if you’re eligible. Your certificate will last anything between six months and five years, depending on your circumstances. You’ll be informed at the time of application how long yours will last for, so take note and remember to renew it, as you’re not likely to be reminded!
Can I get free dental care?
Unfortunately most dental care isn’t free, even under the NHS. You will be eligible for free dental treatment if you’re under 18, you’re under 19 and in full-time education, you’re pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months or you receive income support or Jobseeker’s Allowance. If you’re staying in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist this will not come at a cost to you – but you may have to pay for further treatment.
If none of these apply to you, don’t panic – you might still be able to get free dental treatment by applying to the NHS Low Income Support Scheme (above).
If you’re not yet registered with a dentist, you can use the NHS search tool to locate dentists in your local area.
Am I entitled to a free eye test?
Some people are eligible for a free NHS eye test and optical vouchers to go towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses. This includes those under 16’s, over 60’s, in full-time education, partially sighted/blind, diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma or on income support/Jobseeker’s Allowance. Your employer may offer free eye tests if your’re required to work at a computer for significant amounts of time.
You’ll also be eligible for a free (or discounted) eye test if you have an HC2 or HC3 certificate through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
Most opticians offer free eye tests to the public from time to time, so it’s worth keeping your eye out (pun intended) for special promotions!
Can I get the flu jab free?
Flu is an unpredictable virus that can cause mild illness in most people. It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition. The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are considered ‘at risk’.
You can find out if you’re considered ‘at risk’ to the virus and eligible for a free jab via the NHS Website. It is advised that you talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.
Where can I get free contraception?
You can get contraception, in whatever form, for free from contraception clinics and sexual health clinics, as well as some GPs. This includes condoms, as well as prescribed contraception methods like the pill. FPA, the sexual health charity, has more information and advice on where you can get free contraception.
If you’re worried about being able to afford healthcare bills then please do check out my budgeting tips. The sooner you start planning for unfortunate healthcare costs the easier they will be to navigate.