Getting A Second Opinion

There have been a lot of discussions lately about getting a second opinion. I hope that this posting is helpful.

A second opinion is when you see another doctor or healthcare provider for their opinion on your diagnosis and treatment. Usually it means you’ll see a different hospital or community specialist (such as a GP or hospital consultant) from your current one.

You might seek a second opinion if you're concerned about your diagnosis or the treatment you’ve been recommended. Anyone can ask for a second opinion. You can have one on the NHS so you don’t have to pay, or you can choose to have one privately.

Some of the reasons for requesting a second opinion:

You may have doubt about your diagnosis/

You may not understand the information you've been giving.

You may not be happy with the treatment that is recommended.

You may not feel you can talk to your to your doctor or specialist about your diagnosis and treatment.

You may need to confirm that the treatment/s you are receiving is the right treatment for you.

Before asking for a second opinion, it’s worth asking your GP or consultant to go over your diagnosis and explain anything you don't understand. If you're unhappy with your diagnosis or would like to consider a different course of treatment, discuss this with them. Your GP or consultant should be happy to explain things and in many cases there may be no need for a second opinion.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages which you may want to think about before you decide whether you want a second opinion.

Possible advantages

If both doctors are in agreement about your diagnosis and treatment this will help you feel more confident about their decision.

You may find that you get on better with a different doctor and have more confidence in what they say.

You may be offered a treatment that has not been suggested before, or a newer treatment that’s part of a clinical trial

You may be offered a wider choice of treatments by the second doctor, so you can decide which treatment to have.

Possible disadvantages

Having a second opinion doesn't mean you'll be seen or treated more quickly than anyone else. Your treatment may be delayed by waiting to see another consultant. The person you see for a second opinion will also need to get information from your first doctor, which can delay treatment. You may need to think carefully about having a second opinion if a delay is likely to be harmful to you or reduce your chances of successful treatment.

You may find it upsetting being told the same - or different - news about your diagnosis and treatment if it’s not what you were hoping for.

If you're offered a different treatment, you may be asked to decide which treatment to have. Some people find this difficult and worry about whether they will make the right decision. However, it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong decision.

You may have to travel some distance to a different hospital to see another specialist and you may then need to have your treatment at that hospital. This might not be easy for you or your family and may mean you have extra travelling costs.

How to get a second opinion?

If you want a second opinion from a GP, you can ask to see another GP at your surgery or you could consider changing your surgery. You may want to discuss this with the practice manager.

There are different ways of seeking a second opinion from a hospital consultant or specialist. You can ask your GP to refer you to another consultant or specialist, either on the NHS or privately. Or you can ask your current consultant or specialist to refer you for a second opinion. People often worry that this will upset the specialist or that they will be seen as a bad patient. However, many doctors, consultants or other specialists will be happy to refer you for a second opinion if it will be helpful.

Relatives and carers can also request a second opinion on your behalf, but only with your consent. Some people do their own research to find the name of a consultant they think they'd like to see.

When you are referred for a second opinion, any relevant medical information will be sent to the new doctor or specialist. This information will include your scan, test results and any previous treatments.

If, after your second opinion, you want the second doctor, consultant or specialist to treat you, this will have to be formally arranged with them.

With this information if you decide to get a second opinion. It can help to prepare for your appointment by thinking about what you want to get out of it. You could write down some questions and take them with you. It can also help to have someone else go with you.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

If the second opinion differs from the original one, why?

Are there other treatments I could have?

Do I need any treatment?

What are the side effects of these other treatments?

What impact might the treatments have on my life?

How might other treatments improve my health?

How long will I need to be treated for?

Will I need to have my treatment at another hospital?

Difficulty getting a referral for a second opinion

If for some reason you find it difficult to get a referral for a second opinion, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in your local hospital may be able to help. You can get the phone number of your PALS team from the hospital switchboard. Alternatively, your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) may be able to advise you. Other organisations and resources include: Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS choices, The Patients Association.

If you would like more information, please call the Ovacome Support Line 0845 371 0554, Monday to Friday between 10am -5pm. Or you can visit our website at

Susan Morgan-Walters

Support Line Nurse

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12 Replies

  • This is very useful information thank you Susan x G x

  • Thanks for this information Susan. I shall certainly bear this in mind for future reference if necessary xx Colette

  • Thank you this is really useful, particularly with the clear way it has been laid out.


  • Thanks Susan

    Very clear explanation


  • Thank you Susan

    Excellent and informative information, it would be good to have this in a leaflet form? I am sure as you have seen that this is always a topic of conversation. I think the way you have detailed it it would be an invaluable piece of information,to give out.

    Thank you


  • Thank you so much , as its clear and concise. Like others could it be on a leaflet or somewhere on the site for future reference , dy

  • Hi Susan .. I too found this a very useful way to think of a referral .. And thank you again for your help today .. I really appreciate it. When emotions are there, they can be a huge spur but they're great obscurers of logic too .. Love Tina x x

  • Susan, thank you so much. I will print this out. You are a star, take care. Fiona.

  • Wow!!! Lots of useful info given. Always good to hear the pros and cons. Enables one to make an informed decision. I especially like the section on having 2 different outcomes. Which one to choose? Such a big dilemma. Thank you for this. GREAT!!! Izzy xx

  • This information is so helpful as we weren't sure how to go about a referral. Thank you so much for your help Susan. Elaine x

  • Dear Susan

    This is very helpful information for patients who are treated by the NHS in England. There is excellent and very clear information on the NHS Choices (England) website and I'd recommend looking up the Constitution and Charter which state a patient's rights. This can be downloaded as a pdf file from:

    Patients living in the devolved nations are not covered by the NHS England Charter and may well have limited access to 2nd opinions and referrals to clinical trials that proliferate in the larger centres in England.

    For Patients in Wales:

    There is no NHS Charter. Guidelines have been issued to the seven health boards which are interpretting them as they see fit. You can be refused a second opinion but it is difficult to appeal because there is no charter of patients' rights and you may not be given detailed feedback as to why your application has been refused. Appeals can be prolonged and very often patients need a second opinion sooner rather than later.

    At the current time access to 2nd opinions in Wales is a bit of a postcode lottery. Patients with ovarian cancer served by Betsi Cadwaladr, Powys and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg seem generally to have had applications granted. Patients cared for by health boards in SW and SE Wales are not so fortunate. A patient from the Aneurin Bevan Health Board was recently refused funding for a 2nd opinion. The Velindre NHS, which is the main cancer centre in Wales, has exceptionally agreed to fund the referral as the oncologist was unaware at the time of advising the patient that their health board would refuse a second opinion. It is already common knowledge that patients in Cardiff and the Vale will not be granted a second opinion.

    These issues will be raised at the All-Party Political Group in Westminster on 30 October but if patients reading this feel strongly they may wish to get in touch with their AM, their MP, or the Minister of Health for Wales.

    For some patients in Wales the only way to access the freedom of choice available to patients served by the English NHS is to relocate to a primary address in England or to fund their healthcare privately. This is becoming commonplace.

    I post this up so to avoid confusion or disappointment for patients in Wales. Hopefully members in Scotland and N Ireland can add to this thread so we have a picture of the whole of the UK rather than just England.


  • It is scary how many errors make it through to the operating table. After my grandfather had an unnecessary surgery, my whole family has been getting second opinions anytime we visit the hospital/imaging center. We have been using second opinions. com recently and we love it. Very friendly and cooperative team of doctors who know what they are doing. Would recommend to anyone that has even the slightest question.

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