Seeking a second opinion for important healthcare decisions from another healthcare professional can give you reassurance that you have made the right decision or give you the opportunity to make a different choice about a diagnosis or treatment.
Even if you don't seek a second opinion, asking your current healthcare professional to explain your options in more detail can help if you are worried or uncertain about what to do next.
1. You have the right to ask for more information
At any stage during your care, you can ask a healthcare professional to give you more information or advice. You have the right to ask a doctor for a second medical opinion. However, a doctor is not legally obliged to provide a referral to a particular healthcare professional for this second opinion. Family and carers can ask for a second opinion on your behalf, if they have your formal consent.
2. Often healthcare professionals welcome a second opinion
Most healthcare professionals will welcome the opportunity to talk to another colleague about your health issues, so that they can work together to give you the best outcome.
3. Communication is a major reason why people ask for another opinion
People who request a second opinion often want more communication or reassurance that they understand all the options and are making the best decision.
4. You don't have to agree with the second opinion
Even when you get a second opinion, you don't have to accept and act on it. You may return to working with your usual doctor understanding all the choices and options you have available and feeling comfortable that you have made the right choice.
5. Your medical history is essential information for a new healthcare professional
Before getting a second opinion, ask your doctor to forward copies of your tests and reports to your new healthcare professional. If you don't use a regular GP, you will need to collect and share this information with the healthcare professional before you go to your first appointment.
How to use this tool
This tool will not tell you what to do. Instead, it will help you to reflect on what is important to you and prepare you to take your next steps.
Use this tool to gather your thoughts, weigh up the benefits and risks, identify where you need more information and assess how you are feeling. It will take a little time to go through all the steps in the tool.
At the end of this guide, you will have a summary of your thinking in one place. You can then print this summary and use it to discuss the situation with family, friends and your GP.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a GP.