Getting a GP appointment

We know from calls to our helpline that it can be hard to get a GP appointment sometimes. Here’s some advice for getting in touch with your GP.

What are Asthma + Lung UK doing to help?

We are working with the Taskforce for Lung Health to improve healthcare for people with lung conditions. We’re trying to reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and increase the number of appointments available.

Contacting your GP

Remember that your GP surgery is there to help you. You’re not bothering anybody by asking for an appointment.

Each GP surgery is different, but you’ll usually need to call your GP to book an appointment. You might find it useful to use online services or mobile apps to book, check or cancel GP appointments.

We know that it can be frustrating trying to get an appointment, but try to stay calm during the phone call. The main thing to focus on is getting an appointment so you can talk about your symptoms with the GP. 

Calling your GP surgery

  • Tell the receptionist that you have a lung condition.
  • Make a note of your symptoms before you contact your GP surgery. This will help you to remember them during the call.  
  • Help the receptionist understand how serious your symptoms are. For example, tell them if your symptoms are getting worse or if you think you might have an asthma attack or flare-up.
  • Tell the receptionist if you've been admitted to hospital or gone to A&E because of your lung condition in the past year. 
  • If you monitor your peak flow or pulse oxygen levels, tell the receptionist if they are low and explain what this means. 
  • Let the receptionist know that you’re following the advice in your self-management plan, which you filled in with a healthcare professional. If you do not have a self-management plan, we have an asthma action plan, COPD self-management and pulmonary fibrosis self-management plan that you can download. 

What type of appointment should I ask for?

A routine appointment should be used for general health questions, diagnosis and the monitoring of conditions. They are also known as ‘non-urgent appointments’ and are usually booked several weeks ahead. 

An urgent appointment means you will get an appointment on the same day you have asked for one. The purpose of urgent appointments is to deal with important health issues that need immediate attention but are not life-threatening. 

If you have asthma, you should have an annual asthma review. An annual asthma review is usually longer than other appointments, as it’s a long-term condition review. They could take up to 30 minutes.

Make sure you are clear whether you’re trying to book a routine appointment, an urgent appointment, or your annual asthma review. This could affect how quickly you’re seen. 

If you have a lung condition, you should have an annual review. An annual review is usually longer than other appointments. They could take up to 30 minutes. 

Make sure you are clear whether you’re trying to book a routine appointment, an urgent appointment, or your annual review. This could affect how quickly you’re seen. 

When to see your pharmacist

You can also get help from a local pharmacist. Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals and are trained to make sure you get the help you need. 

You do not need an appointment to see a pharmacist and a lot of pharmacies are open in the evenings and on weekends.

Your pharmacist could help you: 

  • take your medicines safely 
  • learn good inhaler technique
  • get health and wellbeing advice
  • get prescriptions, including repeat prescriptions
  • get vaccinations, including the flu vaccine
  • safely dispose of old or unwanted medicines, like inhalers 
  • buy non-prescription medicines, like paracetamol 
  • treat minor illnesses, like a sore throat 
  • understand the correct dose of new medicines and how often you need to take them.

The NHS has more advice about how your pharmacist can help

When to contact 111

If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales, you can call NHS 111 if you need help right now, but it’s not an emergency. They can tell you the best place to get help if your GP is closed, or if you’re finding it difficult to contact your GP.

Depending on what you need, they might advise you to:

  • call 999 or go to A&E in an emergency
  • go to an urgent treatment centre
  • see an evening and weekend GP (out-of-hours GP)
  • book a call back from a nurse
  • get urgent specialist support
  • see a pharmacist for help with a minor illness
  • look after yourself safely at home. 

If you live in England, you can contact NHS 111 online too.

When to contact 999

If you have asthma, call 999 if

you’re having an asthma attack.

If you have another lung condition, call 999 if:

You have severe difficulty breathing or you have sudden shortness of breath and you have any of these symptoms:
•    your chest feels tight or heavy
•    you have pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck and jaw
•    you feel sick or are being sick
•    you're coughing up blood
•    you have pain or swelling in one of your legs. 

Call our helpline

Our helpline team can give you information on many aspects of living with a lung condition. We have healthcare professionals as well as specialist advisors available to speak to you. You can call them from 9am-5pm on Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). 

“You don’t have to face living with a lung condition on your own,” says Caroline, Respiratory Nurse Specialist at Asthma + Lung UK. 

“We're here for you whether you're affected by a lung condition or worried about your lung health. We'll take the time to talk things through with you and explore any social and practical difficulties you might have. Calls to us are always completely confidential. Families, friends, and carers can call us too.”

Get support

Call or WhatsApp 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.

Did you find this information useful?

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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