Getting a second opinion

You are currently perfectly entitled to ask for a second opinion without fear of reprisal or questioning. Within England this right is guaranteed within the NHS Constitution. The right also exists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A multi-disciplinary team will discuss and decide on your treatment plan. This should fit in with national guidelines for the treating of that particular tumour type. However, you may still wish to ask for a second opinion.

Why do people request a second opinion?

We have supported people who have asked for a second opinion for a number of reasons.

You may wish to ask for one because you don't agree with your diagnosis or treatment plan, and want another expert to look over your case and see if they agree with the original thoughts. You may be offered a different or wider choice of treatments that had not been suggested before or a newer drug or treatment that is part of an ongoing clinical trial.

Some may be told that the only treatment is palliative and they want to know that they have explored every possible options before accepting this. It can often bring comfort to families to know that they have tried every possible explanation.

In our experience when dealing with brain tumour patients, and their loved ones, 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 to discuss a second opinion and you can go through both your GP and specialist.

How can I request a second opinion?

If you would like a second opinion from your GP, you are entitled to book an appointment with a different GP within the same surgery. If you do not have more than one GP at your surgery, you can register at a new surgery.

If after seeing your consultant or specialist from a hospital you would like to seek a second opinion, you can do so through your GP who is able to refer you to another specialist on the NHS or privately. Alternatively, you can discuss it 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.

If your GP agrees to refer you to a new consultant, the consultant will be told that is your second opinion. They will also be sent any relevant test results or scans previously carried out. Although you are going to see a new consultant, this does not mean that they will 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.

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

Getting a second opinion may postpone any required treatment. As you have already seen a doctor, 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. Additionally, getting your medical information from one doctor to another can cause a delay. It is important to check with your doctor whether postponing any treatment could cause harm.

When you go for your second opinion, it can help to be prepared and take someone with you to get the most out of the appointment.

Neurosurgical Outcomes Data

In planning for your surgery you may wish to know more about who you are being seen by or seek a second opinion, The Society of British Neurological Surgeons Neurosurgical National Audit Programme has information about neurosurgeons at each centre in the UK along with their neurosurgical outcomes data. You can also view information on the NHS website about consultants specialising in neurosurgery in England.

When looking at this information its important however to remember that statistics are not always able to allow for additional influencing factors such as the complexity of cases seen and the level of risk involved. Some surgeons may have lower survival rates as they are willing to take on more complex cases therefore it's important that these aspects are also taken into consideration.

Our neurosurgery factsheet explains what to expect when you have surgery and our Information and Support Team are also here to help answer any questions you might have.

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:

Information and Support line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

support@thebraintumourcharity.org

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

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