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How do I get a second opinion?

You can ask your GP, consultant or hospital unit for a second or further opinion (an opinion about your health condition from a different doctor).

Although you don't have a legal right to a second opinion, a healthcare professional will consider your circumstances and whether a second opinion is needed.

Do you need a second opinion?

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 will be happy to explain things and, in many cases, there may be no need for a second opinion.

Can anyone else ask for a second opinion?

Your family or carer can also ask for a second opinion on your behalf, but only with your consent. If someone requests a second opinion on your behalf, they should have all the information about your illness or condition, and check they understand it thoroughly.

Sometimes a GP or consultant may ask a colleague to provide a second opinion. For example, doctors may ask their colleagues about a complicated case.

Second opinion from a different GP

If you would like a second opinion after receiving advice from your GP, you could book an appointment to see a different GP, if you're registered at a surgery with more than one GP.

Alternatively, you could re-register at a different GP surgery.

For more information, see choosing a GP.

Second opinion from a different consultant

If you would like a second opinion after seeing a consultant (a senior medical doctor who specialises in a particular field of medicine), you can discuss this with them directly or with the hospital unit.

You could also contact the hospital's Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) if you have any concerns or complaints.

Find your local PALS

You'll usually need to go back to your GP and ask them to refer you again. If your GP agrees to refer you to a new consultant, the consultant will be told that this is your second opinion. They'll also be sent any relevant test results or X-rays previously carried out.

This doesn't mean the new consultant will automatically take over your care. If you want to be treated by the new consultant, this needs to be arranged with the doctors and hospital.

How long will I have to wait for a second opinion?

People who ask for a second opinion have already seen a doctor, so they may have to wait. A second opinion with a different consultant will also usually be at a different hospital, which may involve some travelling.

Getting a second opinion may therefore delay any treatment you need. If you have a serious medical condition, you should take this into account when deciding to ask for a second opinion. Ask your doctor whether a delay in starting treatment could be harmful.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 04/08/2016

Next review due: 04/08/2019