Referrals to NHS services

Find out how your GP or asthma nurse can refer you to other NHS services like stop smoking services, weight loss clinics, allergy testing and asthma specialists

Waiting times for NHS referrals are currently longer than usual for a lot of people.

You can call our Helpline team for support on 0300 222 5800, 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri (excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

What is a referral?

A referral is when your GP asks people at other NHS services to support your asthma care.

Your doctor or nurse might talk to you about a referral when they see you.

You can also ask your GP or nurse to make a referral if you think an extra health service would help you. If your GP agrees, they’ll make the referral. If they don’t think it’s the right help for you, they’ll explain why and suggest better options.

If you’d like to be referred to a person or service you know about, chat to your GP to see if this is possible.

How your GP makes a referral

Usually, your GP will make a referral by letter or email. This will give some background on you, and the treatments or support you need. If the service can help, they may contact you to offer an appointment. For some kinds of referrals, your GP or you can book using the NHS e-referrals service.

Sometimes your GP will ask for advice and guidance first. Sometimes the specialist can support you and the GP without an appointment, by giving advice about tests, or changes to medication.

If you’re planning to get some private healthcare (healthcare paid for by yourself or through health insurance), you don’t need a GP referral. It can be helpful if you do get one though. Your GP can advise whether the referral is necessary and can pass on your medical history. You might have to pay for the referral letter.

NHS services your GP can refer you to for your asthma

Stop smoking support

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for asthma: it can increase the chance of an asthma attack or your medicines not working well. Cigarette smoke makes your airways swollen and inflamed and more likely to react to asthma triggers. Asthma medicines do not work as well for smokers as they do for non-smokers, so if you smoke your asthma will be harder to manage.

Once you’ve stopped smoking, you should have fewer asthma symptoms.

It can be hard to stop smoking using willpower alone. NHS Stop Smoking services can increase your chance of success with tools and treatments to help you quit. They can support you in the months after you stop too.

Your GP can refer you to Stop Smoking services. You can also make an appointment directly. Ask your nurse, a doctor or your GP receptionist how to book in or check the NHS website.

Find out more about how stopping smoking will help you manage your asthma better.

Weight loss support services

Being overweight puts you at higher risk of asthma symptoms and makes it harder to manage your asthma.

Your GP can check if you’re a healthy weight using your height and weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI). They might also measure your waist.

Losing weight can improve breathlessness and your energy levels. It also cuts your risk of asthma symptoms and an asthma attack.

If you’re overweight, your GP can help you to:

  • track your diet and exercise
  • make a plan for losing weight
  • review how you’re getting on.

Your GP can refer you to a local weight loss group where you can get friendly advice and support.

Your GP can also refer you for fitness classes with a qualified trainer that are free or cheaper than usual.

Find out more about how being a healthy weight will help you manage your asthma better.

Allergy advice and treatment

People with asthma often have allergies and these can make asthma symptoms worse. You might get a reaction to some foods, pollen, or pets, for example.

If you think you have an allergy, talk to your doctor or nurse.

Your GP may refer you for allergy tests if you have signs of an allergy and the cause isn’t clear. They may also refer you to an allergy specialist if you’re finding your allergies hard to manage.

The most common ways to test for an allergy are:

  • blood tests to look for substances in your blood that might cause an allergy
  • skin prick tests or patch tests. This is where small amounts of different substances are put on your skin to look for a reaction.

Your GP can arrange a blood test for you. They can also refer you to an allergy clinic for a skin prick or patch test.

If you’re found to have an allergy, the allergy specialist will explain how you can manage it.
Your GP can also help you to manage your allergy.

Specialist asthma care

Most people can manage their asthma well with the help of a GP or nurse. However, if your asthma is hard to control your GP may refer you for specialist care. You might see a specialist GP or nurse, a respiratory consultant in the hospital or a local clinic, or a team at an asthma care centre.

If your asthma’s difficult to control, you can also ask to have yourself referred to specialist services. See our guide on making a case for specialist care.

If you’re unsure whether you need specialist help, our Severe Asthma Tool can help you to find out.

Waiting times for an NHS referral

Waiting times for NHS services can vary depending on the type of service you’ve been referred to and where you live.

Waiting times are now longer than usual for many referrals than a few years ago.

Your GP or nurse can explain the average waiting times for different NHS services in your area. You can compare waiting times in England on the My Planned Care website.

Find out more about waiting times in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

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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We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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