Not getting what you need from your child’s GP?

Sometimes it feels like your child’s GP is not meeting your child’s needs. Here we answer some of parents’ common concerns.

As a parent you want to trust the care you’re getting from your child’s GP is the best you can get, and feel confident your child’s asthma is being well managed. But what do you do if you don’t feel confident or feel your GP isn’t taking you seriously? Try these ideas from our Helpline team and in-house GP Andy Whittamore. We hope this page will help you find solutions and encourage you to talk to your GP about things that are bothering you. But if you do feel you want to give feedback or make a complaint about the service you’re getting you can find out more about how to do it here. 

My GP is taking too long to give my child a diagnosis

Getting an asthma diagnosis can take a while, so it’s not unusual to feel frustrated and to have to wait a while. Your child’s GP may have prescribed a ‘trial of treatment’ which can only give useful results after a period of time. Your GP might also need to refer your child for tests to help make a diagnosis. Lots of parents feel frustrated as they just want to get on with helping their child feel better.

Talk to your GP about how long it might take so you understand what to expect. Ask how you can help the process along – for example, making sure your child sticks to their medicine routine and attends all appointments. Getting involved can ease any frustration or anxiety you may be feeling during a time that parents often tell us feels a bit in limbo. Don’t be afraid to tell the GP if you’re frustrated with how long it’s all taking; they’ll be able to explain the process to you. Talk to an asthma nurse on our Helpline too, so you can talk through your worries and understand more about why things can take such a long time.

My child’s GP is never there when I need them

We all know how difficult it can be sometimes to get an appointment when you want one, or frustrating when you’re told you have to wait for your child to see their usual GP.

“It may be that because of different skills and experiences in the GP’s team that a particular GP or a trained asthma nurse are felt to be better placed to see your child for their asthma, so if it’s not urgent then it’s worth waiting for the right member of the team” says Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

One solution is to make sure you know the booking system at your particular surgery – talk to reception about times when you’re more likely to get appointments, and ask if the surgery is open at weekends or in the evenings too. Some practices have extended hours to give more options for people who need to make evening or weekend appointments, and some now have an online booking service.

Try:

  • Asking if it’s possible to get a telephone appointment instead. If it is, then the GP or duty doctor you speak to on the phone might ask you to bring your child in for a same day appointment if they think it’s necessary.
  • Explaining to the receptionist why you need a same-day appointment. If your child is having asthma symptoms and you’re following an asthma action plan agreed with the GP or nurse let the receptionist know.
  • Finding out whether there is another GP, an asthma nurse or practice nurse you can see instead.
  • Taking note of any out-of-hours services. Keep your GP telephone number and the out-of-hours number somewhere handy.
  • Booking your child’s asthma review well ahead of time so you have a good chance of being able to book in with the GP or asthma nurse your child knows.

My child’s GP doesn’t think there’s anything wrong

Your child’s asthma can change so their symptoms may not always be present when you take them to their appointment. This can make it harder for GPs to work out what’s wrong.

Some parents find it useful to film their child’s symptoms on their phone, so they have something to show the GP at the appointment. This can also save you time describing the symptoms. Other helpful tools are your child’s symptom calendar or peak flow diary which you can take along to the GP to show them how your child has been over several days. This can give busy GP a quick at a glance idea of how your child has been doing.

My child’s GP doesn’t know enough about asthma

GPs are ‘generalists’ meaning they see people with all sorts of illnesses and long term conditions. But your GP will usually know enough for most asthma needs; not every child with asthma needs highly specialised asthma care. If your child does, your GP may refer them to a specialist.   
If you're concerned, you could ask at reception if any of the GPs has a special interest in respiratory medicine. You can also ask if there’s an asthma nurse available (this is someone who has had specialist training in asthma), and if they’re not always at the practice, what days they are in.

Top tip - try a mix and match: there’s a lot of expertise you can draw on to build up an expert care package for your child alongside your usual GP, particularly if your child’s GP practice has an asthma nurse available, or a practice nurse who has a special interest in asthma or looking after children’s health.

You can also ask the pharmacist for advice about inhaler technique or prescriptions and you can get expert advice from the Asthma UK Helpline.

Don’t forget yourself! You know your child best, and by exploring our website you can get more information and build up your knowledge of asthma.

There’s never enough time to talk through my concerns about my child’s asthma – I always feel like I’m being rushed

Some practices are happy for you to book a double appointment, if one is available. This can give you much longer to talk everything through. It might also help to plan ahead so you can make the most of your 10 minutes.

Our in-house GP Andy Whittamore gives his top tips for making your appointment more productive:

  • Don’t forget to take along your child’s medicines and spacer so they can get their inhaler technique checked
  • Bring along their asthma action plan so it can be reviewed
  • If your child keeps a symptom calendar, bring that along – this is a very useful way to see how your child’s asthma has been over time
  • Think about any symptoms your child has had and any triggers you’ve noticed, such as hay fever
  • Take a note of how often your child has needed to take their reliever inhaler, and whether or not it helped
  • Write down any questions you want answered such as what to do if your child gets symptoms, what to do if they have an asthma attack, how your child can look after their asthma when they’re at school, or at a sports club, or on holiday
  • Showing your GP a film of your child’s recent symptoms from your phone can also be faster than trying to describe them in words.

You can also call the Asthma UK Helpline and talk to one of our expert asthma nurses about anything worrying you, or where you need extra help.

My child’s treatments don’t work; they’re still getting symptoms

It may not be the medicines your GP has prescribed, but how often your child takes them, or an incorrect dose, or even because of the technique your child is using when they take them. Make sure you’ve been shown inhaler technique at every asthma review, and if they are unwell, so you can be sure they’re getting the best from their medicines.

If your child is on a trial of treatment as part of getting a diagnosis it’s important to stick to the prescribed medicines and let your GP know straight away if the medicines prescribed don’t seem to be dealing with your child’s symptoms.

“Your child’s asthma preventer medicines are designed to be used every day, even when your child is well. It might be a little while before you start to see improvements; sometimes the full effect won’t be seen for several months. If you’re worried about your child’s symptoms or feel that things are getting worse it’s important to let your GP or nurse know.” - Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

We haven’t been given an asthma action plan

Next time you take your child for their asthma review appointment make sure you’ve got an asthma action plan with you. You can download one for free here. An asthma action plan will help your GP help your child, and help you manage your child’s asthma better. Some people feel a bit awkward asking their GP to use an action plan if the GP hasn’t suggested it themselves already.

Our in-house GP Andy Whittamore suggests: “Try telling your child’s GP that you’ve heard about action plans from Asthma UK and how they can make a difference, and you’d really like their help in filling it in so you can manage your child’s asthma better.”

My GP doesn’t call my child back for an asthma review

Talk to reception about how they call people in for review. It might be that you need to book your child’s own review appointment. This can be a positive thing because it means you can book a time that suits you, perhaps fitting in with a time of year when your child’s asthma is worse, such as hay fever season.

As you come out of one asthma review, book in the next one. Don’t forget to put the date in your phone calendar, or write it on the family planner Also ask if your practice has a reminder service – where they text or email you a reminder about the appointment a week or a few days in advance – if they do, sign up!

My child’s GP doesn’t check my child’s inhaler technique

Your GP needs to show your child how to use their inhalers regularly, not just when they’ve been given one for the first time, or are starting to use a different device. Take your child’s medicines, and their spacer along with you to every asthma appointment and ask your GP to see how your child uses them. You can explain that you understand the wrong technique can make a difference to how much medicine your child is getting and you’d like it checked. If your GP can’t do it ask them to recommend one of the practice nurses or a local pharmacist who can do it. Remember, you can also check out our inhaler technique guide

I want to change my child’s GP

If you’re not happy with one GP in your surgery you could always ask to see another one. It’s so important for your child’s asthma that you feel you and your child can talk to their GP and that you feel you’re being listened to. As a last resort, if you’re really unhappy with the care you’re getting you could try to re-register with another surgery.  

“I think it's really important to be comfortable with your GP and to know they're on the same page as you. When I felt that my GP wasn't listening to me, or taking me seriously, I decided to seek another doctor and that was the best thing that I did.  Because when I changed doctors I felt that we made progress. I feel that I was understood and therefore I felt stronger as a mother in being able to deal with my son and his condition. So having the right doctor, I feel, is really important that you are understood as a parent and your concerns are cared for and listened to.” - Alexa Keatley, mum to Oliver, 11.

Call the Asthma UK Helpline

You can call the Helpline on 0300 222 5800 any time between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday to speak to one of our friendly expert asthma nurses. You can also talk to them about any areas of your child’s care that you’re worried about. They can suggest a list of questions you can go back and ask your GP to help you open up a conversation and hopefully address any concerns you have.

Last updated July 2016