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Patient Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS)

What is PATS?

The Patient Assistance Travel Scheme (PATS) is a subsidy program funded by the Northern Territory Government to provide financial assistance to Territorians who are referred by an approved practitioner to the nearest approved specialist medical service.

PATS covers fares for travel and provides a subsidy for accommodation and some financial assistance for ground transport e.g. taxis or buses. It also provides a subsidy for fuel if you drive to an appointment.

PATS is not a full payment scheme. It is a subsidy scheme that only pays a portion of your costs, and only for a limited time. You are responsible for any additional costs.

Who is eligible for PATS? 

You are eligible for financial assistance from PATS if:

  • you have to travel more than 200 km one way to an approved specialist medical service, or have to travel more than 400 km cumulatively in one week for renal or oncology treatment
  • are eligible for Medicare and are an Australia citizen or permanent resident
  • have been living in the Northern Territory for six months or more.

Who is not eligible for PATS?

You are not eligible for PATS if:

  • you are visiting the Northern Territory from interstate or overseas
  • you have been resident for less than six months in the Northern Territory, or work in the Northern Territory but live primarily in another jurisdiction (e.g. FIFO)
  • if your costs for treatment are to be covered by a third party, for example Worksafe or Department of Veterans Affairs.

What specialist services are covered under PATS?

PATS provides financial assistance for people to access the nearest approved specialist medical service in the Northern Territory.

A range of specialist services is eligible for assistance under the Scheme.   Not all specialities are available and some that are traditionally not available (for example allied health) may be approved in conjunction with other specialist services, for example if you require surgery. Full details can be found in the scheme guidelines on this webpage.

What is an escort and who can be an escort?

An escort is someone who accompanies a patient when they travel. This can be to assist them in their treatment, in an active role as a carer or if the patient is impaired.

A patient's need for an escort is determined by your referring practitioner; however there are some situations when an escort is automatically approved:

  • The patient is under 18 years of age.
  • If a patient has a child under the age of two travelling with them.
  • You are travelling interstate for surgery or intensive treatments.

There are other circumstances where escorts are approved and you can discuss this with your referring practitioner.

Escorts are not approved for emotional support or to keep the patient company. Of course people can travel with the patient in these circumstances, but they will be responsible for the costs of their travel.

What financial assistance is available?

Patients and approved escorts are eligible for travel and accommodation assistance at the following rates:

Fares - Full cover for air and bus travel, at the most economical rate taking into account all travel factors.


  • Commercial - $60 per person per night
  • Private - $20 per person per night

Ground Transport - A maximum of $50 per patient per trip (escorts are not eligible for a ground subsidy) on provision of receipts.

Fuel Subsidy - 20 cents per kilometre per patient, to a maximum of three patients per vehicle.

Can I choose where I go and who my specialist is?

PATS provides assistance to access the nearest available approved specialist service in the Northern Territory. If you wish to travel interstate for your treatment or attend a specialist of your own choosing, that is not at the nearest approved service, then you are not eligible for PATS assistance and must fund the travel yourself.

If, after attending the nearest approved specialist service in the Northern Territory, it is determined that you need to receive treatment interstate when you may be eligible for assistance under PATS to travel interstate.

How do I apply?

When your practitioner makes a referral to an approved specialist service they will make an application on your behalf for PATS. The practitioner will detail the service you need to attend, the location and any other relevant details.

This application will then be submitted for approval.

If your PATS application is approved then you have two options; your local PATS office can arrange your travel or you can arrange the travel yourself and claim reimbursement after the trip.

Please note that if you arrange your own travel you will need to keep all of your original receipts to be able to claim reimbursement. No receipts, no reimbursement.

Also, you need to remember that this is a subsidy scheme and does not cover all of your costs. If you choose to purchase a high flexible airfare or stay in expensive accommodation you will only receive reimbursement at the rates outlined above.


If you need assistance please contact your local PATS office:

  • Royal Darwin Hospital:   8922 8135
  • Katherine Hospital:  8973 9206  
  • Gove District Hospital: 8987 0201
  • Alice Springs Hospital:  8951 7846
  • Tennant Creek Hospital:  8962 4262