My GP is taking too long to give my child a diagnosis
My child’s GP is never there when I need them
My child’s GP doesn’t think there’s anything wrong
My child’s GP doesn’t know enough about asthma
There’s never enough time to talk through my concerns about my child’s asthma
My child’s treatments don’t work – they’re still getting symptoms
We haven’t been given an asthma action plan
My GP doesn’t call my child back for an asthma review
My child’s GP doesn’t check my child’s inhaler technique
I want to change my child’s GP
Get advice from the Asthma UK Helpline
Getting an asthma diagnosis can take a while, so it’s not unusual for parents to feel frustrated as they just want to get on with helping their child feel better. Your child’s GP may have prescribed a “trial of treatment” which can only give useful results when you've tried it for a while. Your GP may also need to refer your child for tests which can take time too.
- Talking to your GP about how long the process may take so you understand what to expect. Ask how you can help things along by, 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 like being in limbo.
- Telling your GP if you’re frustrated with how long it’s all taking; they’ll be able to explain the process to you.
- Chatting to an asthma nurse on the Asthma UK Helpline too, so you can talk through your worries and understand more about why things can take such a long time.
We all know how difficult it can be sometimes to get an appointment with your GP when you want one, or how frustrating it is when you’re told you have to wait for your child to see their usual GP.
“It may be that a particular GP or a trained asthma nurse are felt to be better placed to see your child for their asthma than your regular GP because of their specific skills and experience. So if it’s not urgent then it’s worth waiting to see the right member of the team,” says Dr Andy. “But, if your child is unwell, don’t delay getting them seen.”
- 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.
- Making sure you know the booking system at your particular surgery as some now have an online booking service.
- Talking 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 as some practices have extended opening hours. Keep your GP’s telephone number and the out-of-hours number somewhere handy.
- 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 may 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 as asthma attacks can be life-threatening if they’re not treated properly and effectively. 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. If this isn’t possible, and your child isn’t feeling better after taking one puff of their reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30 to 60 seconds for up to 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance. Continue to help your child take a puff of their reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds for up to 10 puffs if the ambulance takes longer than 15 minutes.
Your child’s asthma can change so their symptoms may not always be happening at the time when you take them to their appointment. This can make it harder for GPs to work out what’s wrong.
- Filming your child’s symptoms on your phone so you have something to show your GP at the appointment. This can also save you time describing their symptoms.
- Taking your child’s symptom calendar or peak flow diary along to your GP to show them how your child has been over several days. This can give your busy GP a quick, at-a-glance idea of how your child has been doing.
- Keeping a note of any 111 calls, out of hours appointments, or A&E visits you've needed for your child. This can help you give your GP a fuller picture of what's been going on.
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.
- Asking at reception if any of the GPs has a special interest in respiratory medicine.
- Finding out 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.
- A mix-and-match approach: 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.
- Asking your pharmacist for advice about inhaler technique or prescriptions.
- Getting expert advice from the Asthma UK Helpline.
- Exploring the Asthma UK website where 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. If that's not an option, it may also help to plan ahead so you can make the most of your 10 minutes.
Our in-house GP Dr Andy 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 or peak flow diary, bring that along – this is a very useful way to see how your child’s asthma has been over time.
- Make a note of 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.
It may not be the medicines your GP has prescribed. Other common reasons are how often your child takes them, or an incorrect dose, or even the inhaler technique your child is using not being quite right when they take them.
“Your child’s asthma preventer medicines are designed to be used every day, even when your child is well. It may 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,” says Dr Andy.
- Making sure you’ve been shown inhaler technique at every asthma review, and if your child is unwell, so you can be sure they’re getting the best from their medicines.
- Making sure your child takes the medicines they’ve been prescribed if they’re on a trial of treatment as part of getting a diagnosis, and letting your GP know straightaway if the medicines prescribed don’t seem to be dealing with your child’s symptoms.
Next time you take your child for their asthma review appointment make sure you’ve got an asthma action plan with you, and ask to fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse. 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 asthma action plan if the GP hasn’t suggested it themselves already.
- Telling your child’s GP that you’ve heard about asthma action plans from Asthma UK and how they can make a difference. Say you’d really like your GP’s help in filling it in so you can manage your child’s asthma better.
- Talking to reception about how they call people in for asthma reviews. 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 choose a time that suits you, perhaps fitting in with a time of year when your child’s asthma is worse, such as just before hay fever season.
- Booking the next asthma review as you come out of one. Don’t forget to put the date in your phone calendar, or write it on the family planner.
- Asking 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 for it!
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.
- Taking your child’s medicines, and their spacer along with you to every asthma appointment and ask your GP to watch 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.
- Asking your GP to recommend one of the practice nurses or a local pharmacist who can check your child’s inhaler technique if your GP can’t do it.
- Checking out our inhaler technique videos.
It’s very important for your child’s asthma that you feel you and your child can talk to your GP and that you feel you’re being listened to.
- Asking to see another GP in the surgery if you’re not happy with a certain GP.
- Re-registering with another surgery as a last resort if you’re really unhappy with the care you’re getting.
To talk to our friendly asthma nurse specialists about any areas of your child’s care that you’re worried about, call the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 or message them via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm). They can also 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.
We hope this page has helped you find solutions and encouraged 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.
Last updated June 2019
Next review due June 2022