Everyone who lives in the UK is entitled to free asthma healthcare on the National Health Service (NHS), whether it’s getting the right diagnosis, or getting extra help for difficult asthma symptoms.
But there may have been times when you’ve wondered whether going private may help you and your asthma.
About 11% of people in the UK also have some form of private medical insurance (PMI), either through a policy they pay for themselves or through their employer.
If you’re considering getting health insurance for yourself or your family, you may be curious about what you’re entitled to and whether asthma care would be included.
On this page we look at how private healthcare can sometimes help you with your asthma.
- Why go private?
- Frequently asked questions about private asthma care
- Still unsure whether to go private?
“You may decide to go private for your asthma care for several reasons, such as you want an expert or second opinion about your diagnosis, there’s a long waiting time to see a specialist, you can’t see the consultant of your choice or see the same consultant for each appointment, or your employer offers private insurance as part of your employee benefits package,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, AUK’s in-house GP.
Private healthcare can offer some advantages over the NHS, such as:
- faster access to tests and treatments that could take weeks or even months through NHS waiting lists
- the chance to get a second opinion quickly if you’re not happy with your GP’s diagnosis or treatment of your asthma
- longer appointment times so you can really get to the heart of your symptoms, worries or triggers.
Is it worth going private for your asthma care?
Before you decide to go private, make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for reassurance, advice, or a fresh pair of eyes to check that your regular GP hasn’t missed anything?
Going private can be a big financial commitment so there are things you may want to think about first:
- Private care isn’t necessarily better care
The quality of care you receive for your asthma privately or in the NHS should be the same: about 85% of private consultants also work as NHS doctors.
- Shorter waiting times
But you may still need an initial referral or consultation with your GP, which could take some time, before your private appointment.
- Getting a second opinion
If you’re not happy with your diagnosis or treatment, or you find it hard to talk to your doctor, remember that you can ask your GP or consultant to refer you to someone else in the NHS. A second opinion in the NHS isn’t your legal right but is rarely refused. Working alongside your healthcare professional can help you manage your asthma better – see our advice on getting the best from the NHS.
Remember that the Asthma UK Helpline is staffed by expert asthma nurses. If you have questions about your symptoms or medicines, or want to know what you can expect from your healthcare team, message them via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728 or give the Helpline a call on 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).
Will going private affect my NHS care?
No. If you decide to go private, you’re still entitled to NHS care free of charge. Your position on an NHS waiting list shouldn’t be affected if you choose to have a private consultation. But remember, the NHS can’t pay for or subsidise your private hospital treatment.
I’m thinking of getting health insurance – will my asthma be covered?
That depends on the type of insurance plan you get. There are two types of health insurance plan:
- Fully underwritten policies require you to tell your insurers your full medical history so they can decide what will and won’t be covered.
- Moratoriums will automatically exclude pre-existing conditions such as asthma. So it’s a good idea to shop around to see what different insurers can offer you.
If an insurance company underwrites asthma in its policy, it’s likely to go through a health screening questionnaire with you to find out how your asthma has been recently, and if it’s well managed. Some insurers may accept you straight away if you’ve been diagnosed with asthma but haven’t had symptoms for a set number of years.
Most policies won’t cover the day-to-day management of your asthma (for example, your routine appointments or medicines). But you could make a claim if your asthma got worse and your GP or consultant referred you for hospital treatment. But ask your insurer first.
If you have private medical insurance as part of your employee benefits package or a voluntary health insurance scheme, check with your employer if asthma is covered in the policy.
Tip: Some private medical insurance policies will only fund treatment that’s recommended by your GP, which means you’ll need a referral letter from them. Check your policy details to see if a GP referral is needed before you go ahead with any treatment.
What if I get asthma after taking out private medical insurance?
If you get asthma after taking out a policy, your insurer may cover the diagnostic tests, but not the day-to-day management of your asthma. So if you’re thinking about buying insurance, read the details of your policy before doing so.
How much will private medical insurance cost?
The cost of your private medical insurance will depend on:
- The type of cover you buy
- How old you are (as insurance costs increase with age)
- Your overall health
- Whether you smoke.
How much will private healthcare cost if I pay for it myself?
You could consider paying for private healthcare yourself. But be aware that it could get expensive if you need to see lots of different specialists or need a hospital procedure. Every private provider will have its own set of fees and will charge you depending on what you’re seeing them about.
Once you’ve found a private provider, make sure all the costs, and what is included, are clearly explained to you – for example:
- Additional treatments
- Follow-up appointments.
How do I find a private asthma doctor?
If you decide to go private the first step is usually to see your NHS GP. You can ask them to recommend a private GP, consultant or specialist for your asthma.
If you want to find your own private asthma consultant you could:
- talk to family or friends who’ve seen a private consultant and find out about their experiences and recommendations
- search online
- ask your private medical insurance company for its recommendations. Some policies may have a set list of doctors you’re covered to see
- ask for personal recommendations on the Asthma UK Facebook page or our forum (although please remember that these would be individual opinions and not the views of Asthma UK).
Will my NHS GP be involved in my private care?
Yes, your NHS GP usually refers you to a private doctor and will share the results of any tests so you don’t have to get them done again. Your private doctor should also inform your NHS GP of any changes in your treatment so they can update your medical records.
If you’ve been doing lots of research into private healthcare but you’re still not sure whether to go ahead, try:
- talking it through with your GP to see what support is available to you. Your GP is the one who usually refers you to a private doctor, so will need to be involved anyway
- writing down all the pros and cons, for example, weighing up the advantages of being seen quickly against the costs involved
- going through your list of pros and cons with family and friends
- talking it through with one or our asthma nurse specialists on 0300 222 5800 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.
Last updated September 2019
Next review due September 2022