How to save money on hospital visits
Visiting the hospital regularly can work out very expensive! This month I have 10 planned hospital appointments at 3 different hospitals so I have tried really hard to keep the costs down. In this post I am going to share with you my top money saving tips for hospital appointments.
Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme
If you are in receipt of certain benefits such as income support or income related employment and support allowance then you can claim back your travel expenses via the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.
The scheme will reimburse the cost of the cheapest most appropriate way for your to travel to the hospital. For most people this will be the cost of a return bus ticket which from my house to my nearest hospital would work out at £8.40 return.
However if public transport is unavailable or inappropriate due to your health issues you can be refunded the price of fuel at the local mileage rate set by your local Care Commissioning Group plus unavoidable toll and parking charges.
Usually you would be expected to pay your travel costs first then claim them back retrospectively however in certain circumstances you may be able to claim before hand however be sure to apply in plenty of time to allow processing.
How you claim back your travel costs will depend on your local hospital. Some hospitals have a cash office which will take copies of your proof of entitlement (eg benefit letter) and tickets or receipts then refund you immediately. Other hospitals will require you to fill in a form with copies of your proof to be sent away and you will receive reimbursement via post. Click here to download the HC5(T) Refund claim form. They are also available at patient services desks in the hospital.
Community Transport Services
If you are not in receipt of the required benefits to be eligible to access the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme you may be able to access your local community transport services. These services are similar to a taxi but it is run by local volunteers and works out much cheaper. You will only be charged a mileage fee which in Norfolk is currently 45p per mile (August 2017) You will also be charged the mileage fee from the volunteers base address but even with this included it works out at a fraction of the cost. For a return taxi fare to my local hospital it would be £60-£80 whereas via community transport it would cost only £18. A massive 70% saving.
If you are not in receipt of the required benefits to be eligible to claim back your parking charges in full you may still be able to get a discount.
Some hospitals such as Addenbrookes in Cambridge offer a discounted parking rate for those with a hospital appointment. To access the discounted rate you need to either take your appointment letter with your ticket to the cash office at the carpark or get your ticket validated by your doctor during your appointment if you don’t have the letter with you.
At Addenbrookes this discount is available for all patients, other hospitals such as my local one; only offer discounted parking rates to those holding a Blue Badge so do check in advance.
Patient Transport Services
If your health issues are particularly complex and you require extra help to attend your hospital appointments then you will be eligible to use Patient Transport Services. This is a free service to all patients who either require specialist help from the Patient Transport Services staff or who would be otherwise unable to attend their hospital appointments because travel by other means would be detrimental to their health.
Food and Drink
I find hospital appointments really thirsty work and if my appointment falls around lunch time I end up really hungry and tempted by all the naughty foods on offer so end up eating lunch out. The food and drinks prices in the shops and cafes in hospitals are usually inflated due to their captive audience so it can work out rather pricey. Here are a few tips to avoid this extra expense.
Take own food and drink
If you can try and pack your own snacks before you travel. If like me you a partial to a Pepsi Max or two you can pick up small bottles at discounts stores such as B&M for 49p whereas in hospital shops I have seen them sold for as much as £1.89 for a 500ml bottle!
Choose the hospital run shop or cafe
If you can’t prepare ahead or simply forget and end up needing to buy food or drink then I recommend you check out the hospital run shops or cafes first if available. My local hospital has a cafe and shop it runs itself plus a Costa Coffee and a branded store. The prices are so much cheaper in the hospital run ones plus all profit goes back into the hospital to buy essential equipment such as defibrillators which is fab!
Take your own cup
Just can’t resist the branded coffee shop? Sometimes you need to treat yourself and after a stressful hospital appointment might just be one of those times! So if you can’t resist a hot chocolate with the works to cheer yourself up then consider taking your own travel cup with you. Costa Coffee and starbucks both offer a 25p price discount for using your own cup.
What is your top tip to make hospital trips less expensive?