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Getting a second opinion

If you ask for a second opinion, very few healthcare professionals will refuse to refer you for one.

Although you don’t have a legal right to a second opinion, you do have the right to ask for a second opinion without fear of reprisal or questioning. In England this right is guaranteed by the NHS Constitution. The right also exists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In our experience dealing with people affected by a brain tumour, healthcare professionals are very open to allowing second opinions, recognising the sensitive nature of the diagnosis and subsequent treatment and its impact. You should always feel able to approach your healthcare team, either your GP or your specialist, to discuss a second opinion.

Why do people request a second opinion?

 You might consider asking for a second opinion on your treatment and care if:

  • you want to check other experts agree with the original treatment plan your multi-disciplinary team (MDT) has decided on. Your plan should fit in with national guidelines for treating your tumour type
  • your treatment plan may have been changed and you’re unsure about it. For example, you may be offered a different, newer or wider choice of treatments, possibly as part of an ongoing clinical trial
  • you disagree with your treatment plan
  • you've been told that the only treatment available to you is palliative care, and you want to know every possible option has been explored before accepting this. Knowing this has been done can bring comfort to families.

Actions to take

Questions to ask a doctor

Resources to explore

Actions to take

  • Read through the NHS choices data about different GP Surgerys, hospitals, and their statistics, to help you make a decision about where to go for a second opinion
  • Make sure you are aware of the possible delays when asking for a second opinion & what they may mean to your care, diagnosis or treatment plan. Your medical team will be able to explain this for you
  • Talk to your GP about getting a second opinion. They're able to refer you to another specialist
  • It can sometimes help to have access to or copies of your medical records. Talk to your current medical team about accessing these as soon as possible to avoid delays
  • You can book an appointment with a different GP within the same surgery. If you don’t have more than one GP at your surgery, you can register at a new surgery.

Questions to ask a doctor

  • Can I get a second opinion?
  • How do I get a second opinion?
  • How long will it take to get a second opinion (with my chosen doctor)?
  • Will getting a second opinion delay my treatment or diagnosis?
  • How long can I wait before starting treatment? How long is too long?

Resources to explore

Neurosurgical Outcomes Data

In preparing for your surgery, you may wish to know more about who you’re being seen by or seek a second opinion. The NHS website has information about consultants specialising in neurosurgery in England, along with some data about their neurosurgical outcomes.

When looking at this information, it’s important to remember that statistics aren’t always able to show other factors that may affect the outcomes. For example, some surgeons may have lower survival rates because they’re willing to take on more complex cases.

Find out more

How many brain tumour operations does your hospital do?

If you’ve ever wanted to see how many brain tumour surgeries your hospital carries out each year, have a look at the Surgeries per Hospital insight in BRIAN. You can filter the results by year, age and type of surgery.

How many brain tumour operations does your hospital do?

BRIAN is our trusted online app where you can track your experience, compare it with others who’ve been there and get the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

Download our BRIAN app on the App Store    Download our BRIAN app on Google Play

Click here to visit the BRIAN website

How can I request a second opinion?

Second opinion to your GP

You can book an appointment with a different GP within the same surgery. If you don’t have more than one GP at your surgery, you can register at a new surgery.

Second opinion to your hospital specialist

You should speak to your GP. They’re able to refer you to another specialist, either on the NHS or privately.

The specialist will be told it’s for a second opinion, and they’ll be sent any relevant test results and scans you’ve already had. This doesn’t mean they’ll automatically take over your care. If you wish to be treated by the new consultant, arrangements will need to be made with the doctors and hospital.

Alternatively, you can discuss having a second opinion with your current hospital specialist or consultant.

A relative or carer is also entitled to ask for a second opinion on your behalf, with your consent.

Find a list of the centres awarded Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence status.

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

It’s important to remember that getting a second opinion might postpone treatment. Check with your doctor whether postponing any treatment could cause harm.

Getting a second opinion can delay your treatment because:

  • you’ve already seen a doctor, so you may have to wait longer for an appointment
  • a second opinion with a different doctor or consultant will usually be at a different hospital, which could involve some travelling
  • getting your medical information from one doctor to another can cause a delay.

When you go for your second opinion, it can help to be prepared.

  • Think about what questions you want to ask.
  • If you can get copies of, or access to, your electronic files, these can help when talking to the new specialist.
  • Take someone with you to get the most out of the appointment. They could write down the answers to your questions so you don’t have to remember them.

You might also be interested in our trusted online app, BRIAN. BRIAN allows you to record your entire brain tumour experience in one place, including symptoms, treatments and side-effects, which you can use to help your discussions with healthcare professionals.

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By joining one of our our Online Support Communities, you can get more tips about living with or beyond a brain tumour diagnosis from people who truly understand what you're going through.

Find out more

Get support

If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.

Share your experiences and help create change

By taking part in our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys and sharing your experiences, you can help us improve treatment and care for everyone affected by a brain tumour.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:

Support and Information Services

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00

You can also join our active online community - Join our online support groups.