How can I have oxygen at home?

You might be wondering how to get a home oxygen supply and who will supply it.

Having oxygen at home

People with cancer can become breathless for a number of reasons. Once your doctor has found out why you're breathless, they might recommend oxygen therapy for you.

You can have oxygen therapy at home from:

  • a compressed oxygen cylinder
  • a liquid oxygen cylinder
  • an oxygen concentrator machine
  • small, portable oxygen cylinders to use when going out

People who only need oxygen for short periods usually have cylinders. But if you need oxygen for longer periods you're likely to need an oxygen concentrator.

In England and Wales, 4 large companies are responsible for supplying you with cylinders or a concentrator. They're responsible for everything to do with your oxygen supply, including providing a contact number in case you have any problems. You can find phone numbers for these oxygen supply companies on NHS Choices. Your GP or specialist will need to prescribe oxygen for you before you can arrange a supply.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, your GP and local pharmacist arrange your oxygen supply.

Machines that supply oxygen (concentrators)

An oxygen concentrator works by filtering out oxygen from the air. You then breathe in the oxygen through small tubes that fit inside your nose (nasal cannulae). The concentrator is roughly the size of a big suitcase and plugs into a normal electricity socket.

Tubing from the machine can go along the floor or skirting board, and supplies oxygen from 2 points downstairs. It's also possible to have an extra supply point upstairs if you need it. The machine is very quiet. You have an oxygen cylinder to use as back up, in case the machine breaks down.

The suppliers of the concentrator

An oxygen supply company supplies the oxygen concentrator and all other equipment you need. First, you have to sign a consent form to allow your doctor to send them your contact details. The company then contacts you to arrange a visit to install the machine. They will show you or your carer how to use the concentrator and cylinder, and answer any questions you have.

The concentrator costs about 2 pence an hour to run, and the NHS pays these costs. The supply company will arrange for you to be paid back for the electricity you use for your oxygen.

The company will service the machine regularly to try to prevent any problems. They'll give you a 24 hour contact number to ring (free from a landline) if you have any problems with your oxygen supply.

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