Private healthcare for asthma

Find out about private healthcare and health insurance for your asthma

What is private healthcare?

If you live in the UK, you can get free asthma healthcare from the NHS (National Health Service) - whether it’s getting an asthma diagnosis or help to manage your asthma symptoms.

It’s also possible to get private healthcare in the UK. You can pay for this directly, but some people have health insurance that covers some, or all, of the costs.

Private healthcare can include:

  • Hospital care, such as operations, treatments and tests
  • Mental healthcare
  • GP consultations
  • Healthcare at clinics, such as physiotherapy
  • Complementary care (treatment that is not mainstream healthcare) such as homeopathy.

Is private healthcare a good idea?

If you are not happy with your NHS care, you might think about paying for private healthcare.

In some cases, your employer may have offered you health insurance and you may be thinking about what you can get out of it.

Private healthcare can have some benefits:

  • If you’re on a long waiting list for NHS care, you might be able to get tests and treatments more quickly privately.
  • You can get a second opinion if you’re not sure about your diagnosis or treatment of your asthma.
  • You can have more time at appointments to talk about your asthma symptoms, worries or triggers.

Private healthcare isn’t always the best option though:

  • It can be very expensive to pay directly.
  • Health insurance can be expensive too.
  • Your health insurance might not cover some, or all, of your private asthma care.
Dr Andy Whittamore

“Some things are as good across NHS and private healthcare, such as the expertise of consultants. In fact, most consultants who work in private care also work in the NHS, or have done in the past. You can also get a second opinion on the NHS. Most NHS doctors would be happy to organise this for you.”

Not sure whether private asthma care is for you?

Why not talk to your GP, friends or family about what you hope to get from going private? It might be so you can get tests and treatments faster, a second opinion, or just more time to talk about your asthma at appointments. Check whether you could get this on the NHS too.

Find out more about getting the best from the NHS.

Mixing NHS and private asthma care

If you decide to get some private healthcare, you can go  back to NHS care at any point. Your position on the NHS waiting list should not be affected.

If you’re getting private healthcare for one thing, you can still get NHS care for other things. But it should always be clear who is giving you which care.

If your NHS GP refers you to a private doctor, they’ll share the results of any tests, so you don’t have to get them done again.

Your private doctor should tell your NHS GP about any changes to your treatment, so they can update your medical records.

The NHS cannot pay towards your private hospital treatment. 

Finding private asthma care

If you decide to get private asthma care, the first step is usually to see your NHS GP. You can ask them to recommend a private GP, consultant, or specialist for your asthma.

You may not need to get a referral, but if you ask your GP to refer you, they can share your information with your private doctor.

If you want to look into private care yourself, you could:

  • Talk to family or friends who’ve seen a private consultant. How did they find this and who would they recommend?
  • Search the Private Healthcare Information Network, an independent website that gives performance results, and fees, for private consultants and hospitals.
  • Ask your health insurance company. They may have a list of doctors you can choose from.
  • Ask for personal recommendations on HealthUnlocked (please remember that these are individual opinions and not the views of Asthma and Lung UK). 

Once you’ve found a private provider, ask what is included and the full cost. Make sure you get costs for:

  • consultations
  • tests
  • medicines
  • additional treatments
  • follow-up appointments.

Would health insurance cover your asthma care?

Less than 15% of people who use private healthcare pay for it directly. Most use health insurance.

You can sign up for health insurance for yourself (and your family) directly, but it’s often cheaper to use your employer’s if they offer it.

Maybe you already have health insurance paid, or are considering getting this for you and your family. Are you clear on what asthma care this would cover?

Most health insurance plans are set up to cover sudden (acute) illnesses requiring hospital treatment, surgery and medical tests. They don’t usually cover GP care and most don’t cover a health condition you already had when you signed up (pre-existing condition).

This means:

  • if you’re diagnosed with asthma after you take out your health insurance, tests or hospital treatments might be covered, but not your day-to-day asthma care (such as routine check-ups or medicines)
  • if you were diagnosed with asthma before you took out your health insurance, your asthma care might not be covered at all.

However, the rules are not always the same, so check your policy carefully and shop around for the best insurance. Sometimes you can get asthma cover if you pay extra.

There are two types of health insurance plan:

  • standard packages that do not include pre-existing conditions such as asthma
  • tailored plans that can be cheaper, depending on your health. The insurer will ask for your full medical history and decide what will and won’t be covered and the policy fee.

If your insurance company agrees to cover your asthma, they may do a health screening questionnaire with you first. This is to find out how your asthma has been recently and if it’s well managed. Some insurers may accept you straight away if you have an asthma diagnosis, but haven’t had symptoms for a set number of years.

If you have health insurance through your employer, check whether asthma is covered in the policy. Some health insurance plans only pay for private treatment if it’s recommended by your GP. Check your policy details. If you need a GP referral, ask your GP to write the referral letter before you start any treatment.

How much does health insurance cost?

The cost of your health insurance will depend on:

  • the type of cover you buy
  • how old you are (as insurance costs increase with age)
  • your overall health
  • whether you smoke tobacco or use vape products
  • where you live.

Choosing health insurance

If you’re thinking of getting health insurance, look into different plans carefully to see what they cover. The cheapest policy might not provide the best cover.

Health insurance can be complex. It’s a good idea to have a health insurance broker to help you find a policy that covers your asthma. You can find a broker via British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) or the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII).


  • What's the premium (yearly fee)?
  • Which types of healthcare are covered?
  • Are any types of healthcare or condition not covered?
  • Is your asthma care covered?
  • What's the maximum amount they will pay out per claim?
  • What's the excess (money you have to contribute to each claim)?
  • Can you choose which consultant you see?
  • Are you covered when you're travelling outside the UK?

For more information, see the British Medical Association’s guide for patients thinking about taking out health insurance.

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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