Visiting your local NHS wig supplier
Whilst it is normally your oncologist that will initially tell you that hair loss will be a side effect of your cancer treatment it is usually your cancer nurse who will talk to you in more detail about preparing for hair loss, hair loss prevention such as scalp cooling and action your referral for a wig supplied through the NHS system.
NHS wig supply system - Commonly asked Q & A:
- When can I make an appointment with the NHS wig supplier?
- Will I have to pay towards the cost?
- Can I choose any wig I like?
- During my treatment can I only have one wig supplied?
- NHS website and further ino
When can I make an appointment with the NHS wig supplier?
Pre-chemotherapy/radiotherapy appointment – generally speaking, prior to your treatment starting, a cancer nurse will meet with you and discus your treatment and help you prepare. Most cancer nurses know that hair loss is always a subject that is very important to people. Most of the time it is at this appointment that the nurse will make a referral to a local NHS wig supplier who, once you have been given a referal letter, you can contact for an appointment to try on a wig.
Will I have to pay towards the cost?
It may be that you will qualify for help towards costs of a wig from the NHS because your hair loss is due to a side effect of medical treatment. If so you will normally be limited to using a supplier that is recommended by your local NHS authority. These are suppliers who have a contractual agreement with the NHS to supply you a wig. You will normally receive a referral letter which will tell you the details of agreed suppliers.
You may have to pay a prescription charge (between £60 – 80 synthetic hair/modacrylic wig) towards the cost. However you may also be exempt from paying and so won’t have to pay towards the wig at all. Either way, you will still need to buy wig care items and accessories such as wig shampoo and conditioner.
NHS funding only covers synthetic wigs unless you have an allergy.
Remember to ask your cancer nurse or contact the NHS to find out what you are entitled to.
If you quality for full payment of prescription charges from the NHS, you may be entitled to a new wig every six months.
Briefly, you may be covered in full for the cost if:
- You are staying in hospital as an inpatient and you are in hospital when the wig is supplied
- You or your partner are claiming particular benefits such as income support
- You have an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- You are named on a HC2 certificate
- You are under 16 years of age or aged between 16 – 19 and in full time education
If you do not qualify for full costs you may be given an NHS prescription and will need to make a part payment – see below:
NHS prescription (this means that you will pay a prescription charge of around £60-£80) - the remaining cost of the wig is covered by the NHS
- There are no nationally set limits on the number of wigs a patient can have on the NHS, but there's nothing preventing local NHS organisations from setting their own limit.
- Your cancer nurse will arrange your wig referral, normally in the form of a referral letter - you may then be asked to take this to another department such as “Surgical Appliances” who will send you a letter with details directing you to the local supplier(s) who offer an NHS prescription service. Or you may recieve this in the post.
- You will normally be directed to a particular supplier that have an agreement with the NHS in your area - if you want to go elsewhere you would need to pay in full
- You will normally need to book an appointment with the wig supplier, most commonly visiting the wig shop itself although the wig fitter may offer a service at the local hospital.
Read our section Budgeting and paying for a wig that will give you in-depth insights into costs, exemptions and tips for buying wigs and accessories.
Can I choose any wig I like?
Generally speaking the NHS only funds synthetic (acrylic) wigs or hairpieces. The only exception to this is if you are clinically diagnosed to be allergic to synthetic materials. In other words if you prefer a human hair wig then you would need to fund the full cost.
Most NHS wig suppliers will offer you a range which you may choose from that is covered by your NHS prescription. The wig supplier will normally also have other ranges which are not available within your prescription and so need to be paid in full privately. The NHS supply system has very strict rules about what ranges can and can’t be supplied as part of the NHS prescription service.
Many people ask why wig suppliers won’t allow them to use their wig prescription to purchase a wig that is not within the NHS prescription range. Unfortunately the wig suppliers have a limited resource and strict regulations and so often can’t offer a top up system. In other words you need to choose a wig from the NHS covered range or pay in full yourself.
If you are happy to pay in full there is nothing to stop you from buying a wig from any supplier you wish. You may decide to do this if you don’t like the options offered to you by the NHS supplier or if you want a real hair wig.
The good thing about your local supplier is that they will have a vast experience of helping people with cancer deal with wig choices.
During my treatment can I only have one wig supplied?
Most people don’t know that they are usually entitled to a new wig prescription via the NHS every six months. If your wig is no longer fitting well, you want a change or need a new wig then after six months, ask your cancer nurse for a new referral. Some cancer nurses may not know about this six month process and so we recommend directing them to the NHS website that has the most up-to-date information available.
NHS website and further ino
The NHS Choices website has the latest guidance about costs relating to the supply of NHS wigs and hairpieces.
Make sure you talk to your medical team to be certain you are receiving what you are entitled to within the NHS
Next planned review: February 2020