Specialist asthma care

If your asthma is difficult to control, you may be referred for specialist care. Find out all about specialist care for asthma.

What is specialist asthma care?

Specialist asthma care is when you’re referred to an asthma specialist or a specialist care centre for asthma treatment. Most people with asthma are more likely to get referred to a specialist in their local hospital or clinic, rather than a specialist centre.  

You may get a referral to a specialist if:  

  • your asthma diagnosis is unclear 
  • your GP thinks you have occupational asthma 
  • your asthma medicines are not working 
  • you have had a life-threatening asthma attack that required hospital care.

Specialist asthma care centres

Who can get a referral to a specialist asthma centre?

At the moment, very few people are referred to specialist asthma care centres. There are only a small number of centres across the UK. If you have severe asthma, you may be referred to a specialist asthma care centre if one of the following applies:

  • you’ve had a life-threatening asthma attack requiring intensive care within the last 10 years. 
  • you’ve had two or more courses of oral corticosteroids in the last year. 
  • your spirometry test results are less than your predicted normal value. 
  • you have suspected occupational asthma 
  • you’ve transferred from child to adult services.

What do specialist care centres do?

For a centre to be called a specialist asthma centre, it must:

  • have access to a team of respiratory and other specialists 
  • be able to offer specialist asthma tests 
  • be able to offer treatments such as biologic therapies and bronchial thermoplasty
  • be led by at least two consultant respiratory physicians with a specific interest in severe asthma.

Specialist asthma centres aim to:

Asking for a referral to specialist asthma care

Before you’re considered for a referral to specialist asthma care, your GP will want to be sure that you’re doing everything you can to control your asthma.

It can help you and your GP If you write things down:

  • Keep a peak flow diary so you have a record of how your lungs are working. 
  • Use a diary to show that you’ve been taking your asthma medicines and using your written action asthma plan. 
  • Keep a diary of all your symptoms and when you’ve needed to use your reliever inhaler.  Remember to include a note about how symptoms affected your daily life - for example, if you needed to take time off work.

This will help your GP or other healthcare professional know if you’d benefit from a referral to specialist care.

If your request is refused   

Not all requests for referral to specialist care are successful.

“If your request has been refused, go back to your GP for an explanation and make sure you ask for suggestions and advice on how you can manage your asthma going forward,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma and Lung’s GP.

Preparing for a specialist appointment

Once you’ve been referred for specialist care, you’ll receive an appointment letter or details to book an appointment online. You should read this through thoroughly before going to your first appointment.

Before your appointment

You may want to:

  • add the appointment to your calendar or diary
  • take videos when you have asthma symptoms to show your healthcare professional 
  • plan how you will get to the appointment
  • plan who will come with you, such as family member or friend, if you want extra support
  • make a list of questions or concerns about your specialist care.

At your appointment  

Don’t forget to bring:

  • the letter confirming your appointment
  • your written asthma action plan if you’ve got one, or any apps you use to manage your asthma
  • your symptom diary and peak flow diary if you’ve been keeping one
  • your asthma medicines
  • the names and doses of any other medicines you’re taking, such as antibiotics
  • details about courses of steroids you’ve taken  
  • dates you’ve been admitted to hospital or needed to go to A&E for your asthma.

How long do I need specialist care for?

Everybody’s journey with specialist care is different. If you’re referred to a hospital or clinic, you may need ongoing follow-up care. You could also have one appointment and then be discharged back to your GP. It depends on the treatment you need.

Ongoing specialist treatment

If you have severe asthma, you may need to stay under the care of a specialist asthma centre. If you’ve had an asthma attack that meant you needed intensive care, your specialist consultants may recommend that you benefit from specialist asthma care long term.

Leaving specialist care

There may be a time when your specialist team feels you can manage your asthma well under the care of a consultant in your local hospital, instead of at the specialist asthma centre, or even with support from your GP, particularly if:

Did you find this information useful?

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