How do I get a second opinion?

You can ask for a second opinion if you want one. It won’t affect your care.

Getting a second opinion means seeing a different doctor, possibly in a different hospital. For example, some people may want a second opinion if they are concerned about the diagnosis or recommended treatment.

You shouldn’t delay treatment while you get a second opinion, as it can take several weeks. You can start treatment while you are going through the process. Keep in mind that the second team’s opinion may not be any different.

A second opinion is free on the NHS, or you can pay for this privately. If you wish, your family can ask for a second opinion on your behalf. You will need to ask your current hospital doctor or GP for a referral for a second opinion. You don’t have a legal right to a second opinion, but doctors usually won’t refuse.

Macmillan Cancer Support have more information about getting a second opinion.

Martha’s rule

Martha’s rule is a new scheme that means patients can ask for an urgent review if their condition is getting worse very quickly. Families and carers can also ask for this. It is only for people who are being cared for in hospital. A critical care outreach team will be asked to give a second opinion on the person’s care.

This is different from requesting a second opinion on your diagnosis or treatment options.

Martha’s rule is being rolled out in NHS hospitals across England from 2024 onwards. It won’t be available in every hospital straight away. But it should be clearly advertised in hospitals where it is available.

May 2024

To be reviewed May 2027