Free Wigs and Fabric Supports

Some people are automatically exempt from paying for wigs and fabric supports. Some people on a low income can make a claim for help with all or part of the costs.

Who gets free NHS wigs and fabric supports?

The following groups of people automatically qualify for free NHS wigs and fabric support (including spinal or abdominal supports or a surgical brassiere). Tell the person who fits your wig or fabric support that you are entitled to it free, and show proof of you entitlement.

  • If you are under 16.
  • If you are 16, 17 or 18 in full-time education.
  • If you are a hospital in-patient.
  • If you have a valid war pension exemption certificate and the wig or fabric support is for your accepted disablement.
  • If you (or your partner) gets one of the following:
    • Income Support.
    • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
    • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
  • You are named on an HC2 (or HC3) certificate because of low income (see below).

Note in Scotland the following groups also qualify:

  • If you are aged 60 or over.
  • If you are pregnant, or have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and have a valid exemption certificate.
  • If you hold a valid Prescription Pre-payment Certificate.

How can people on a low income apply for help?

Some people on a low income may qualify for free NHS wigs or fabric supports. Your entitlement to help is based on your circumstances such as your level of income, savings, etc. You will have to fill in an HC1 form 'Claim for Help with Health Costs' giving various details of your circumstances and then send it off in the pre-paid envelope provided.

If you qualify for help you will be sent an HC2 or HC3 Certificate. The certificate will tell you who it covers and how long it lasts. An HC2 qualifies you for full costs. An HC3 only qualifies you for partial help with health costs and the person who fits your wig or fabric support will let you know if you are entitled to any help with the charge. For each item, the most you will pay will be the amount on the certificate, whichever is the least.

Can I claim a refund for a charge I have already paid?

If you are issued with certificate HC2 or HC3, you may be able to claim a refund if you have recently paid for an NHS wig or fabric supports. You will need a receipt that shows that you have paid an NHS charge and you will need to claim using an HC5 form. Claims must be received within three months of your paying the charge.

How can I get the claim forms?

To get the forms HC1 or HC5 mentioned above:

  • Contact your local office of the Department of Work and Pensions (the local Jobcentre Plus or 'social security' office) for a claim form. Find your local office in the phone book under 'Jobcentre Plus', OR
  • Get them from an NHS hospital, OR
  • Phone the NHS Formsline on 0845 610 1112, textphone number 08700 102 870, OR
  • Phone the Department of Health Publications Orderline on 0300 123 1002 (minicom 0300 123 1003) and ask for a form to be sent to you.

How can I find out more?

Further information

This leaflet only gives a brief summary of how to obtain free wigs and fabric supports and is for guidance only. It does not cover all situations nor is it a full statement of the law. The official information booklet 'Help with health costs' (HC11 in England and Northern Ireland, and HSC1 in Scotland) provides more details for people on a low income. Your local Jobcentre Plus office, NHS hospital, pharmacist, doctor, dentist or optician may have a leaflet on help with health costs and relevant claim forms. The booklet is available as a download from:
Web: (England and Scotland) and Web: (Northern Ireland).



Directgov brings together the widest range of public service information and services online.
Produced by the Central Office of Information, Directgov provides information from across UK government departments on topics ranging from travel safety and parental leave, to special educational needs, local NHS services, and benefits. The site also brings together an number of online government services - including being able to download and/or complete certain benefit claim forms online. See the Health costs section of their website.

NHS Business Services Authority - Help with Health Costs

Help with Health Costs provides exemption certificates to those entitled and sells Prescription Pre-payment Certificates. They have phone lines that deal with various types of query:

  • NHS Low Income Scheme
    Tel: 0845 850 1166
  • Prescription Pre-payment, Medical and Maternity Exemption Certificates
    For general queries before you apply: Tel: 0845 850 0030
    For specific queries after you've applied: Tel: 0845 601 8076
  • NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificates
    Tel: 0845 609 9299

Department of Health

The official website of the Department of Health, see the Basics about help with NHS charges section of the website.

Benefit Enquiry Line - BEL

England, Wales and Scotland - Tel: 0800 88 22 00 Textphone: 0800 24 33 55 Northern Ireland - Tel: 0800 220 674 Textphone: 0800 243 787 For people with disabilities, their carers and representatives. It is part of the Department for Work and Pensions. BEL offers confidential advice and information on benefits and how to claim them. In addition they can also send out an extensive range of leaflets and claim packs, and help you to complete a claim form over the phone.

Citizens Advice Bureau

Provides independent advice on many issues including benefits. Listed in the phone book under 'Citizens Advice Bureaux'. Also, see their excellent website: