NHS mileage rates

NHS staff shouldn’t have to pay to care for patients! 

UNISON is clear that our members should never be left out of pocket when traveling to care for patients, and that spiralling costs of motoring should be absorbed by employers and funded by the government!

That’s why UNISON is calling for the NHS to take immediate interim action to increase reimbursement rates and work is currently underway via the NHS Staff Council to find a longer-term solution to mileage in the NHS. UNISON will also continue to raise this issue with policy makers and politicians.

For now, there are short and medium-term solutions that staff sides and employers can put in place to ensure that members aren’t paying out of their own pockets to deliver patient care.

On a national level, UNISON will continue to lead discussions to find a long-term solution on mileage on behalf of our members.

Read the Joint TU NHS travel and mileage reimbursement guidance.

Also, read the Joint statement on behalf of the NHS Staff Council on Reimbursement of Travel Costs in England – May 2022


How to fix mileage in the NHS

We’re calling on employers and the government to: 

Short term solutions

  • Put in place an interim boost to reimbursement rates – including for lease cars and the HMRC reimbursement levels
  • Increase the 3500 threshold standard reimbursement rate
  • For NHS staff who use their car for work employers should look at options which include; receipting fuel, providing fuel cards for low paid members, providing hire cars for low paid staff, providing public transport travel passes and taxis, investing in pool cars for teams, paying travel expenses weekly rather than monthly and  advancing mileage expenses rather than paying in arrears.

Medium term solutions

In addition to financial reimbursement rates, employers should also consider options to plan work differently to reduce non-essential travel by staff and seek greener alternatives where possible, practical, and safe for staff. For example, using public transport or green fleet pools. 

Long Term solutions

  • NHS trade unions have formally requested that the NHS Staff Council undertake a review of the current travel and motoring cost reimbursement mechanism, as set out in the NHS TCS handbook (Section 17 and Annex 12).
  • Seek to improve the HMRC reimbursement rates to increase tax free reimbursement .

We know the best way for members to reduce their motoring costs is to push the cost back to their employers. We also know that this is challenging for staff and that for some, there is a contractual requirement for them to use their vehicles so this should be checked first.

How and why have motoring costs increased? 

A member of staff driving 3,500 miles for work every year is paying £400 to the cost of home visits in the form of fuel costs they won’t get back.

A community nurse travelling 15,000 miles to provide care will have to pay more than £1,000 a year towards the cost of getting to appointments.

UNISON members working in the NHS delivering care to vulnerable communities throughout the UK are currently being left out of pocket by hundreds, if not thousands of pounds due to increases in fuel and motoring costs.

The current cost of living crisis has been compounded by global factors such as the increase oil prices and the war in Ukraine. In addition, there has been an increase to the costs of car parts, servicing, and maintenance of vehicles as well as in insurance costs.

In fact, between January and April 2022 fuel prices have skyrocketed, putting even more pressure on NHS staff. Petrol is up 20p per litre, and diesel is up by 30p – all in 3 months. This is a 20% rise in fuel costs since January alone which since then, has added around 3p per mile to the cost of motoring. This is why we are calling for the NHS to take urgent action. 

What does the current NHS mileage scheme allow for? 

The NHS terms and conditions mileage scheme is contained in section 17 of the Agenda for Change handbook (Reimbursement of travel costs) and Annex 12 (Motoring costs). As it stands, mileage rates are currently linked to the AA cost of motoring report. However, this has not been published since 2014. This means mileage rates have stayed the same since 2014, despite these increasing costs.

During this time, some local partnerships have negotiated local terms for travel costs which have mainly led to employers opting to put in place Approved Mileage Allowance Payment (AMAP) which are set by the HMRC.

The NHS mileage scheme reimburses at a higher rate than AMAP for the first 3500 mileage after which point it decreases. 

Why it’s not working anymore! 

The NHS mileage scheme was never intended to reimburse regular and sustained use of personal vehicles for work, though we know a lot of our community staff members have no choice other than to use their own cars to visit patients. This has left members, especially those in lower banded support roles, in challenging financial circumstances with some having to cut back on essentials such as food and heating.

The governments in Wales and Scotland have added 5p to their reimbursement rates and we think the rest of the UK should follow suit.

UNISON health members have also recognised the need to reduce overall mileage in the NHS as part of our commitment to help the NHS to reach net zero carbon. More information on green travel will emerge over the coming months.