Most people can manage their asthma well with the help of their local GP or asthma nurse. But a few need more specialist care to stay on top of their symptoms. This might mean a referral to an asthma consultant in a local hospital, or to a range of respiratory specialists in a dedicated asthma centre. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to access this level of asthma care and many people with severe asthma rely on repeat courses of oral steroids prescribed by their GP. Here we look at what kinds of specialist asthma care are available.
Asthma specialists at your local hospital
You might be referred to a specialist GP, nurse or consultant either in hospital, or a local clinic if your asthma is difficult to control and you’re experiencing worsening asthma symptoms. This level of specialist care is the most common. It doesn’t offer the full range of care and expertise of a specialist asthma centre, but it is a chance to go into more depth about why your asthma symptoms are not in control, whether that’s because of the medicines you’re taking, how you’re taking them, or other issues such as other conditions you’re dealing with, or triggers you’re being exposed to at home or at work.
In some areas what’s known as a ‘hub and network’ model gives people with difficult asthma access to a specialist consultant at their local hospital who is linked to a lead consultant in a specialist asthma centre.
Specialist asthma centres
Specialist asthma centres offer expert asthma care from a varied team of respiratory specialists such as specialist asthma nurses, health psychologists and physiotherapists, all focused on improving your asthma management and quality of life.
At a specialist asthma centre you can also be assessed for specialist medicines and treatments for severe asthma such as Xolair and Bronchial Thermoplasty which are not prescribed outside of specialist asthma centres.
At the moment very few people access this level of care. There are only a small number of specialist asthma centres spread out across the country, with large catchment areas. Those who do access it need to meet a set of criteria - for example, how many times you’ve had a life-threatening asthma attack, what dose of steroids you’re taking and how long you’ve needed them.
Campaigning for more specialist care
Asthma UK believes there is a real need for more specialist care to support people with severe or difficult to control asthma. We are calling for more severe asthma experts to be available at local level to address the fact that the majority of people with severe or difficult to control asthma are only accessing care via their GP surgeries, and relying on regular courses of oral steroids to manage ongoing symptoms.
Read more here about how you can make your case for a specialist asthma care referral, what asthma management in a specialist centre looks like, and how to prepare for your specialist asthma care appointment, whether it’s at your local hospital or in a specialist centre.
Sometimes people with severe asthma find it hard to access the specialist care they need for their asthma. This page supports you in making your case for a specialist referral, either to a consultant at your local hospital, or to a specialist asthma centre. We’ll explain more about the criteria that need to be met before your referral can be accepted at a specialist asthma centre.
Find out what asthma management in a specialist asthma centre involves and what treatments you can access.
If you’ve been referred to a specialist asthma consultant it can help to do a bit of preparation beforehand to help you make the most of your appointment. Get some top tips on what to think about in advance and what to take with you.
Last updated October 2016
Next review due October 2019