Photo of a woman and her doctor

A second opinion is when you see another doctor or healthcare provider for their opinion on your diagnosis and treatment.

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


Reasons for requesting a second opinion:

  • You may have doubt about your diagnosis.
  • You may not understand the information you've been given.
  • 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.
  • You may want to explore what other clinicians would offer in order to weigh up your options.
  • You may want an opinion on clinical trials which are not run from your treatment centre

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 for many people there may be no need for a second opinion.


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 may reassure you regarding 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. Your treatment may be delayed by waiting to see another consultant and while they get information from your first doctor.
  • 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. Try not to delay any tests planned by your current doctor.
  • 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 do I ask for a second opinion?

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

There are different ways of seeking a second opinion from hospital clinicians. It needs to be a doctor-to-doctor referral, so you need to ask your GP or your current consultant or specialist to refer you to another doctor, either on the NHS or privately.

People often worry that this will upset their current doctor. However, many doctors, consultants or other specialists will be happy to refer you for a second opinion if it will be helpful.

Some people do their own research to find the name of a consultant they think they'd like to see. It’s worth thinking about what you want the second opinion for, and picking an appropriate consultant. For example, if you want an opinion on radical surgery, you will need a consultant surgeon who specialises in this.

When you are referred for a second opinion, all relevant medical information will be sent to the referred doctor. This information will include your medical records, scans, test results, histopathology and any previous treatments.

If, after your second opinion, you want to transfer your treatment, this will have to be formally arranged with them.

If you decide to get a second opinion, you may or may not be seen by the second doctor. Sometimes second opinions are provided using medical records only. If you are offered an outpatient appointment for the second opinion, it can help to prepare 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?


I'm having trouble 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. Other organisations and resources include:

Macmillan Cancer Support 


The Patients Association

If you would like more information, please contact the Ovacome support service. We are available Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. Call 07503 682 311, or 0800 008 7054, or email [email protected] . You can also contact us using the pink chat box at the bottom of your screen.