How to get cheap healthcare and dentistry

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By in Health & Relationships. Updated September 2013.

We are lucky in this country to have a national health service that provides a vast range of treatments, most of them ‘free’ to UK citizens. However I found that when I first went to collect my usual prescription as a university student, I had to pay.  I’d never paid for a prescription before and I wasn’t too keen on making it a habit. So I began a little investigation.

It turns out that a lot of student are unaware of the costs of dentistry and healthcare with many avoiding dentists and GPs simply because they are unsure how to approach it (along with horror stories of huge dentist bills).

This quick guide is here to show you how to get free healthcare and dentistry, among other things, as a student. It could save you £££’s every year.

Registering for a GP

Registering with a doctor as a studentIf you are moving away from your hometown to go to university then you will most likely need to change your GP to a more local one to avoid having to travel home every single time that you get ill.

You will need to either find your own GP in the local area or register with the university health centre. If you are unsure how to do this then it’s a good idea to speak to someone at your university who can give you a list of trusted GPs.

To register for a new GP you will need to take along your NHS medical card as well as filling in a (GMS1) form. If you do not have your NHS medical card then you will need to ask for your NHS number from your current GP and take it into the new practice.

After this you will just need to set up an initial meeting or check up with your GP to introduce yourself.

Free prescriptions for students

Student Healthcare

I found out from my university GP that there is a way in which students can carry on collecting prescriptions without paying for them.

There is a particular form that I had to fill out called the HC2 form which is issued under the NHS Low Income Scheme.

It’s quite a lengthy form as you have to put in a lot of details about yourself, so honesty is the best policy when it comes to this as some evidence must be given to support your claims.

I sent it off and the next week I received a HC2 certificate which states that I am entitled to full help with health costs. I have to bring this with me every time I wish to get my prescription and I have saved a great deal of money because of this.

A prescription can cost over £7.50 every single time and if you are someone that regularly gets ill then you can see the costs add up.

But the benefits of this certificate do not end at free NHS prescriptions. There are more goodies that come with this form.

*Please note that your application for your HC2 certificate is based upon your income and your student loan may be treated as income. In this case you can apply for an HC3 certificate which will give you a smaller discount.

Free or cheap student dentists

Free Student Dentistry

The same form can be used when it comes to the dentist as it covers all health costs. The certificate states that you can also receive “Free NHS Dental treatment” although it is sometimes not as simple  as that.  What you have to do is to show the certificate to your dentist and write its number on the form that your dentist would give you to sign.

Take note that Dental Examinations are free to all in Scotland; you don’t need to show this certificate.

I called up and visited the numerous dentists in my city and most of them do permit the HC2 form to use when signing up to be a patient.  The private ones that I visited still expect the student to pay to be a patient however they did offer some cheaper deals.

For example one of the private dentistry’s I visited offered the student deal of £28 to sign up, £8 for x-rays and when other forms of treatment where to be provided, the dentist would give individual quotas. So if you are not a fan of the NHS, you can find cheaper healthcare deals for students in the private sector.

Do take note that you will not be exempt from paying for NHS dental treatment because you receive one of the benefits below when paid on their own:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit savings credit

NB: the difficulty in finding a dentist willing to offer you a free service can be quite hard in certain locations. Make sure you call up all of the dentists in your local area or contact the university to see which ones offer a free service to those with an HC2 form.

Also, if you are under 19 and can find an NHS dentist then you are entitled to free treatment. Anyone over the age of 19 should apply for an HC2 certificate, where you need to earn under around £8,000 a year and you may still end up paying parts of your cost.

Glasses and contact lenses

If you need help with new glasses or contact lenses, help with the cost is provided through NHS optical vouchers.  The value of your voucher will depend on your prescription – the person who tests your sight will be able to tell you how much this is.

You can normally use your voucher at any optician, though not all opticians fit contact lenses. The certificate entitles you to the full value of an NHS optical voucher.

Other benefits of the HC2

The form also allows the holder to receive free NHS wigs and fabric supports.

It also helps cover costs of travel to receive NHS treatment.  If you need to travel:

  • in England to receive NHS treatment under the care of a consultant, or through a referral by a doctor or dentist; or
  • in Scotland to a hospital to receive NHS treatment; or
  • in Wales to receive NHS treatment under the care of a consultant

you can get help with the cost of your journey. In England, if you are referred by a doctor or dentist to the same premises but on a different day you can claim for that travel cost.

Apply for an HC2 certificate now >>

Keep in mind that the certificate lasts for a year so you have to renew is as long as your course goes on for.

So there you have it. If you ever get in trouble with your health during your time at university then you need to make sure you get an HC2 form otherwise you could be in big trouble and end up footing a whopping bill.

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4 Responses to “How to get cheap healthcare and dentistry”

  1. brenda

    05. Oct, 2012

    I am International student studying at University. Am I entitled for HC2 form ? I have never applied for any loan. I am not doing any job.

    • Jake Butler

      09. Oct, 2012

      Hi Brenda,

      I cannot be sure on this. I would assume that you would have to be a UK citizen but it may be best to check with your university student services.


  2. Di

    02. Oct, 2012

    I recently applied for HC2 form… Im a student studying at university. After they analysed my application they said to me that I am only entitled to HC3 certificate they say because I am getting student loan.. How does that work that some students getting student loan are entitled to HC2 and others are not.
    My only income is from student finance loan

    • Jake Butler

      03. Oct, 2012

      Hi Di,
      Unfortunately, your student loan classed as income and you may only be eligible for an HC3 certificate which will get you a discount (although smaller).

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