Get the best from the NHS

Learn how you can work together with different NHS services to get the best care and manage your asthma well

We’ve heard from some people with asthma that they’re having trouble accessing the GP services they need.

Call our Helpline team for advice and support on 0300 222 5800, 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri (excluding Bank Holidays).

Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

Registering with a local GP surgery

To see a local doctor (GP) you need to be registered at a local GP surgery. You can choose which local practice you want to go to, but you’re more likely to be accepted if you’re in the surgery’s catchment area.

Find out what services the GP surgeries in your area offer so you can register with one that suits you.

If you’ve moved house, or feel that a different GP surgery would better meet your needs, you can register with a different GP surgery.

You can find a GP service using the NHS directories:

Things you might want to check include:

  • How the appointments are set up: how do you get urgent and routine appointments? Are there appointments available outside normal office hours (evenings and weekends)? Do they offer consultations by telephone or video call? Can you book by telephone or use an online booking system or app?
  • Who provides asthma care at the practice: It might be a GP or an asthma nurse. If there isn’t an asthma nurse, does the practice nurse have experience working with patients with asthma?
  • Can you see the same GP or asthma nurse each time you visit? This means they can get to know you and your asthma.

Once you’ve registered, keep the surgery’s telephone number and the out-of-hours number on your phone or somewhere handy. Note down any out-of-hours services.

How you and the NHS can work together

There are lots of simple ways you and your healthcare team can work together to keep on top of your asthma symptoms.

Working in partnership with your GP means you’ll get the best support and treatment for your asthma .

For example, your GP can prescribe the right asthma medicines, but it’s up to you to take them correctly, and to tell your GP about symptoms, triggers, and side effects .

Help the NHS to give you the right diagnosis

It’s the job of the NHS (usually your GP) to make sure you get the right diagnosis as quickly as possible.

Sometimes getting an asthma diagnosis takes time . Your GP will ask about your symptoms, what triggers your asthma, and your medical history. They might refer you to a hospital or another clinic for further tests.

Your doctor may suggest a combination of tests, including spirometry, fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNo) and peak flow testing. This is because no single test can provide enough information on its own.

If you’re diagnosed with asthma, your doctor or nurse can talk to you about the different treatments and inhalers available. They can also show you the best way to use your inhalers.

You can play your part by:

  • Talking openly to your GP about your medical and family history, and what triggers your symptoms. Talk about your workplace too, so your GP can check if your asthma’s work-related.
  • Going to any appointments to get the tests needed to confirm or rule out asthma. If you have trouble remembering to keep appointments, ask for a text, email, or phone call reminder nearer the time.
  • Taking any medicines as prescribed, and letting your GP know if they’ve made a difference.
  • Keep a symptom diary to take to your next appointment. This can help your GP or asthma nurse see how your asthma’s been.

Make the most of your asthma review

People with asthma are invited for a review of their asthma each year either in person or as a telephone consultation. This is key to helping you stay well.

A small amount of time reviewing your asthma care can help to prevent asthma symptoms and could help avoid a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

An asthma review is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It’s a chance to talk about any triggers or symptoms, update your written asthma action plan and check your inhaler technique.

Find out more about asthma reviews, and how to get the most out of your appointment.

Deal with asthma symptoms when they get worse

You can help the NHS deal with your symptoms quickly by recognising when your asthma’s getting worse and making an appointment as soon as possible.

Your GP or asthma nurse can check how your asthma is by using asthma questionnaires and doing breathing tests.

Use an asthma action plan

Your GP can fill in an asthma action plan with you. This makes it easier to know what to do if your asthma is getting worse.

If you have difficult symptoms or are finding it hard to control your asthma, your healthcare professional will try to work out why.

For example, they’ll look into whether you need a change of treatment and whether you’re using your inhaler the best way. To help your GP or nurse do this, be open and honest about your symptoms and how you manage them.

If your treatment changes, you’ll usually have a follow-up appointment with your GP or asthma nurse four to eight weeks later. This could be at the surgery or over the phone. This is to check your new medicines are working well for you.

If things don’t improve, your GP may refer you to an asthma specialist. They’ll talk to you about different tests and treatment options.

To manage your asthma well, it’s essential that you:

  • Take any new treatments as prescribed.
  • Go to all your appointments.
  • Attend follow-up appointments after treatment changes so you can talk to your GP or nurse about how you’re getting on.
  • Be honest about your lifestyle, such as smoking or forgetting to take your medicines. This gives your healthcare team a clear picture of what’s going on and how they can help you to manage your asthma.
  • Keep a diary of your peak flow measurements and symptoms. Take this to all your asthma appointments.

Here are some ways you can prepare for appointments:

  • Ask someone to film you when you’re having symptoms. This way you can show your GP or asthma nurse exactly what you were experiencing. But do not delay taking your reliever medication to do this.
  • Ask a friend or family member along to your appointments if it helps you feel more confident having their support.
  • Make a list of questions or topics you’d like to cover. Check them off during your appointment. You can also write brief notes against them during your appointment.

Call 999 for an ambulance if:

you’re having an asthma attack and your symptoms don’t improve after ten puffs of your reliever inhaler, or six puffs of your MART/AIR inhaler, or if you feel worse at any point.

At the A&E, you’ll be assessed and will receive emergency care to quickly improve your symptoms. Treatments for an asthma attack given at A&E include steroid medicine and being put on a machine to deliver asthma medicine (a nebuliser).

It’s also the job of the NHS to follow up with you after an attack to work out how your asthma can be better controlled.

Book an urgent appointment with your GP or asthma nurse (even if you feel well) within two working days of your attack or discharge from hospital.

If you managed an asthma attack at home, see your GP as soon as possible, and certainly within one to two weeks.

You should be given a clear, written plan of action to make sure you get well, stay well, and are not at risk of further attacks.

To reduce the risk of asthma attacks in the future:

  • Make sure you have an asthma action plan and a follow-up appointment. In the appointment, you’ll talk through what happened with your GP or asthma nurse and look at ways to avoid it happening again.
  • Know the signs of your asthma getting worse – whether it’s coughing at night or struggling with everyday things such as climbing stairs. Look out for your child’s warning signs too.
  • Keep your asthma action plan handy so you can remind yourself what to do when symptoms get worse. Make sure you and those close to you know what quick, life-saving steps to take if you have an asthma attack.
  • Take your asthma action plan with you if you go to A&E or an out-of-hours service. If your plan is up to date, it will tell the emergency staff and hospital doctors what they need to know. This means you won’t have to struggle to tell them while you’re breathless.

Make the most of other NHS services on offer

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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