Healthcare professionals

The NHS Healthy Start scheme helps families and pregnant people on low incomes to get healthy food, milk and vitamins.

Your role

Healthcare professionals play an important part in promoting the Healthy Start scheme. You can tell eligible people about the Healthy Start online application and promote the free Healthy Start vitamins.

When people learn about Healthy Start from a healthcare professional, they’re more likely to understand the scheme and make better use of it. This is because healthcare professionals can explain the health benefits of the scheme.

Appointments and social care assessments are ideal opportunities to promote the Healthy Start scheme.

Find out more about the scheme and your role in our guide for health professionals.

You can email any questions about the scheme to healthystartdigital@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

Promoting the scheme

You can download a range of promotional materials to help you promote the NHS Healthy Start scheme.

You can email any questions about the promotional materials to communicationsteam@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

Sign up to receive updates about NHS Healthy Start.

About NHS Healthy Start

Find out more information about who is eligible for the NHS Healthy Start scheme and how they can apply.

We offer an assisted application over the phone for people who cannot apply online. There’s also a translator service available.

About Healthy Start vitamins

People on the NHS Healthy Start scheme are entitled to free Healthy Start vitamins.

Healthy Start vitamins are available to pregnant and breastfeeding people, people with a child under 1 year old, and children under the age of 4. Healthy Start vitamins provide the correct amount of vitamins recommended by the government. They contain:

  • vitamins A, C and D for children aged from birth to 4 years old
  • folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin D for pregnant people, breastfeeding people, and people with a child under 1 year old

Healthy Start vitamins are important because:

  • 8% of children under 5 in the UK do not have enough vitamin A in their diet
  • families in lower-income groups tend to have less vitamin C in their diet
  • all pregnant people, breastfeeding people and young children are at risk of vitamin D deficiency (teenagers, younger adults and those from ethnic minorities are particularly at risk)

Find out more information about taking vitamins on the NHS website (opens in a new tab).

Find out more about Healthy Start vitamins.

NHS Healthy Start uptake data

Correction notice – eligibility and uptake statistics

Due to data quality issues identified on one of our inbound data feeds, the eligibility data and uptake percentage have been removed from the spreadsheets for the months detailed below:

April 2024

The reported number of people eligible for the scheme in April appears to have been overstated. This means the uptake figure for that month was lower than it should have been. We have removed the data to investigate this further with the data provider.

July 2023 to February 2024

The reported number of people eligible for the scheme between July 2023 and February 2024 was incorrect, which means that the calculated uptake percentage was overstated. Further details can be found here.

The issues have only affected the data on the number of people eligible for the scheme.  They have not prevented anyone from joining the scheme or continuing to access the scheme if they were eligible.

We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

This data shows the digital uptake of the NHS Healthy Start prepaid card. Scheme uptake data will be published here on a monthly basis, usually on the last working day of the month. The next publication is expected on 31 July.

In June 2024, 362,782 people were on the digital scheme, 548,821 people were eligible for the digital scheme, and uptake for the digital scheme was 66.1% across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The uptake data shows:

  • The number of children who are eligible for NHS Healthy Start (eligible beneficiaries), as provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
  • The number of people who are on the digital scheme (formerly entitled beneficiaries). This includes the number of children under the age of four and the number of pregnancies over ten weeks.

The published data reflects all people who have been accepted onto the scheme through an online application and issued with a prepaid card at a specific point in time.

The reported percentage uptake is the number of people on the digital scheme as a percentage of the number of the number of children who are eligible.

Care should be taken in the interpretation and use of percentage uptake as:

  • The uptake percentage is affected by both the number of people on the digital  scheme and the number who are eligible. The number of people who are eligible can fluctuate. It is dependent on a number of factors including new people becoming eligible for the scheme and people who are on the scheme becoming ineligible because their child turns four, they no longer receive a qualifying benefit or their income rises above a threshold. We continue to work with DWP to understand patterns and reasons behind these changes.
  • Pregnancies are included in the number of people on the digital scheme as this is the most accurate data we hold. Pregnancies are not included in the eligible beneficiaries data which is provided to the NHSBSA by DWP and HMRC
  • Both the number of people on the digital scheme and eligible beneficiaries do not include those people who are not able to make a digital application to the scheme. This includes those who receive a legacy benefit such as Income Support, or people who are under 18 and pregnant who do not receive any benefits.
  • The number of people on the digital scheme may include ineligible or duplicate applications. Following audit and investigation, if we find that the published data includes ineligible or duplicate applications, cases like this are identified and removed from the scheme and the published data will not be amended retrospectively.

When using the uptake data, please consider these limitations. We advise stakeholders to use the ‘people on the digital scheme’ figure as their main indicator when assessing the effectiveness of local initiatives. If you have any questions about using the data, contact healthystartdigital@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

From January 2024, we have changed the naming of ‘entitled beneficiaries’ to ‘people on the digital scheme’.

Uptake data published on this website relates to the individual the benefit is meant for (the child or pregnant person). This is not the same as the number of families or households as there could be multiple beneficiaries living within one household.

England Uptake Data (Excel: 36KB)

Wales Uptake Data (Excel: 25KB)

Northern Ireland Uptake Data (Excel: 24KB)

We were made aware that the eligibility data that we receive and use to calculate the uptake of the NHS Healthy Start scheme was incorrect. This issue affected the eligibility number from July 2023 to February 2024. We have therefore removed the eligibility data and the uptake percentage for those months from the datasets.

The DWP is not able to provide accurate historical eligibility data, so there is a gap in the eligibility data and the uptake percentage from July 2023 to February 2024.

Historical data 

The data from September 2021 to March 2022 combines all the beneficiaries on the Healthy Start paper voucher scheme, those who had transitioned from the paper voucher scheme to the NHS Healthy Start prepaid card scheme, and those who had newly joined the NHS Healthy Start prepaid card scheme. Both schemes were running in parallel during the transition period. Historical data should therefore not be compared to the latest dataset, which is for the prepaid card scheme only. August 2021 is the last month that is paper vouchers only. The Healthy Start paper voucher scheme ended on 31 March 2022.  

Historical eligibility data from April 2022 to December 2022 is not currently available. If it becomes available, it will be published here.  

England Uptake Data – August 2021 to March 2022 (Excel: 123KB)

Wales Uptake Data – August 2021 to March 2022 (Excel: 61KB)

Northern Ireland Uptake Data – August 2021 to March 2022 (Excel: 57KB)

Questions about the uptake data can be sent to healthystartdigital@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

For media enquiries, contact communicationsteam@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

Future data improvements

The NHSBSA took over the scheme from Serco in October 2021 and then took over the reporting of data on the scheme in January 2023.  

For consistency, we continued to publish data in the same format that Serco reported the data.

As part of the ongoing improvements to the delivery of the scheme, we are developing an action plan to improve how the data is reported and the explanations of what the data does and does not show. This will be informed by user engagement.

A child with knife and fork in hand about to eat a plate of vegetables

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions that people may have about the Healthy Start scheme