A second opinion is when you ask a doctor if they agree with your diagnosis or treatment. You can ask your doctor to be referred for a second opinion if you do not agree with them, but you do not have a right to a second opinion.
You can get a second opinion by asking to see another GP at your surgery or you could consider changing your GP practice. You can ask your GP to arrange a second opinion from another GP or specialist. However, if they don’t think its necessary, they do not have to do this. If a GP refers you for a second opinion, you cannot insist on seeing a particular doctor. However, you should not be referred to someone you do not wish to see. If the GP refuses to arrange a second opinion, you may wish to change your GP.
There are several ways of getting a second opinion from a hospital consultant or specialist.
Before asking for a second opinion, it’s worth asking your consultant team 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 healthcare team will be happy to explain things, and, in many cases, there may be no need for a second opinion.
If you are still unhappy, speak to your GP. They will be able to refer you for a second opinion, either on the NHS or privately. This can allow you to get an independent second opinion. Some people do their own research to find the name of a consultant they think they would like to see.
For funding reasons, your current consultant may not be able to refer you to other specialists. They may recommend talking to your GP about getting a second opinion from another specialist. You may worry that asking for a second opinion will upset your consultant. But this is unlikely to happen. Doctors often ask for the opinion of a colleague, especially for complex cases.
People who are referred for a second opinion are treated as a new patient referral and are assessed appropriately. A second opinion with a different healthcare team may be at a different hospital which could, in some cases, involve additional travelling. Whilst waiting for your second opinion, you may wish to discuss or inform your initial healthcare team about this. If you have a serious medical condition requiring urgent treatment, we advise that you discuss this with the team and ask whether any delay in starting treatment could affect your wellbeing.
Getting a Second Opinon