If you’re struggling with your asthma even though you’re taking all your asthma medicines in the right way, your GP can refer you for some specialist help to get on top of your asthma symptoms. You will probably get an appointment with an asthma specialist consultant in your local hospital. In some areas you’ll see a respiratory specialist team in a specialist asthma centre.
You’re more likely to get answers to the questions that really matter to you if you prepare for your appointment. Just booking 30 minutes into your diary and going through this checklist will really help you make the most of your time with the specialist – to get the help you need to stop your asthma symptoms getting in the way of your life.
Don’t come away from the appointment kicking yourself because you forgot to ask a key question or because you didn’t tell the consultant something really important.
STEP 1: Ask yourself ‘what do I want?’
It’s a good idea to make some time before you go to think about what you want from the appointment. What would you like to come away with? Examples could include the following, but these are just to get you thinking… What would make the most difference to you and your asthma? Would you like to:
- get answers to questions you have?
- be reassured about worries you have?
- talk about other health conditions that might be making a difference to your asthma?
- get advice about work triggers?
- know more about tests to see whether or not your asthma can be confirmed as ‘severe ’?
- talk about which new medicines might help your particular type of asthma?
- get a full review of your medicines to help cut any side-effects you’re getting?
STEP 2: Consider all the practical ways you can prepare
Being clear about all the practical details can help stop your stress levels going up on the day! The calmer you are, the more likely it is you’ll be able to take in what the specialist says and to remember everything you want to ask.
Useful ideas you could try include:
Read through your appointment letter again
It will tell you:
- the date, time and length of your appointment and where to go
- the name(s) of the specialist(s) you’ll be seeing
- if you need to stop or keep taking any of your asthma or allergy medicines, or to refrain from smoking or eating a big meal before the appointment so the specialist can get useful results from tests they want to run
- if you need to bring your medicines with you (though you won’t have to take your nebuliser if you have one at home)
- where you need to go, including the name of the hospital wing or building – then you can follow the signs rather than having to go to the main reception or trying to find somebody to ask.
Write the appointment on your calendar or in your diary
Or set up a phone reminder, or stick the letter on the fridge. If you miss your appointment you’ll be setting back your health because you’ll probably have to wait a while for another one. What’s the best way to make it easy for you to remember?
Some people find it helpful to take a video on their phone when they’re having asthma symptoms
Or you could ask someone else to film you. If you don’t have symptoms during the appointment, you can show the consultant and they can quickly see what your symptoms are like so you don’t have to try to describe them.
Think about asking a family member or friend to come to the appointment with you
It can often feel like there’s a lot to take in and it’s good to have someone else there to take notes or just for someone else to hear it too. It can also be helpful to have someone there who has experience of your symptoms and attacks so they can give more information from their perspective.
Plan your transport
Find out if the hospital will help you with transport if it is difficult for you to get to and from the asthma centre. There’s a useful round-up of transport services available here .
If you’re driving or getting public transport, plan your route in advance. If you’re planning to park in the hospital car park make sure you’ve got plenty of change (it can be very expensive). Give yourself extra time so you can arrive feeling calm.
STEP 3: Think about what you need to take
- The letter confirming your appointment
- The name of the specialist you’re seeing (this should be in the letter)
- The phone number of the asthma centre in case you’re delayed for any reason and need to call them on the way
- Your written asthma action plan if you’ve got one, or any apps you use to manage your asthma
- Your symptom diary if you’ve been keeping one
- Your asthma medicines, if you need to bring them
- The names and doses of any other medicines you’re taking, such as antibiotics
- Details about courses of steroids you've had, when you've been admitted to hospital, or needed to go to A&E for your asthma
STEP 4: Make a list of key questions
Each appointment with your consultant is your chance to get the answers you need to help you with your asthma. What would be most helpful for you? Examples of the kind of thing you might want to ask could include…
…about your medicines
- Is there an obvious reason the treatments I’m already taking for my asthma aren’t working for me?
- What treatments do you have for severe asthma and which ones do you think will work for me?
- How does this new treatment you’re recommending work?
- How long will I need to take any new treatments before we know whether they work or not?
- What side effects might I expect from these new treatments?
- Who will continue to prescribe the medicines I need?
…about your specialist care
- What tests do I need and why?
- How long do you think it might take to work out whether or not I’ve got severe asthma ?
- What happens if I have an asthma attack? Do I come here? Or go to A&E?
- When will I need to see you again?
- Do I still need to see my GP or asthma nurse now that I’m seeing you? How often?
…about your work and lifestyle
- I can’t work – can I get financial help?
- Can I get help with things around the house?
- Can I exercise if I have severe asthma?
- What can I do, and what can my family do, to help keep my asthma under control?
- What can I do if work triggers my severe asthma?
STEP 5: While you’re in the appointment, remember that honesty is the best policy
Be open with your consultant…
…even when it comes to the things you might feel a bit uncertain or even embarrassed about. You will get the care and support most likely to make a real difference to your health and wellbeing if you can be frank and honest. That could be anything from worries about steroids that stop you taking your medicines as prescribed, to struggling with quitting smoking or even questions about complementary therapies or medicines you want to use.You’ll get more from the specialists if you work with them in a real partnership like this.
Check you understand
Don't be afraid to ask your consultant to explain anything you don't understand. You could say something like: "I'm not quite sure I heard what you said about X. Would you mind going over it again?"
If you have any questions about your specialist care appointment, call our Helpline and talk to our experienced asthma nurse specialists: 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Mon-Fri).
Last updated October 2016
Next review due October 2019