Am I entitled to a second opinion?
Q. I am told that patients have a right to a second opinion on the NHS. Is this correct? A. Yes and no: under the NHS Constitution, you have a right to ask your GP or another healthcare professional for a second or further opinion from a different doctor. But that does not mean you have a legal right to get a second opinion. However, according to NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk), ‘a healthcare professional will rarely refuse to refer you for one’.
• NHS Choices makes the point that before asking for a second opinion, it is worth asking your GP or consultant to go over your diagnosis again, explain anything you do not understand and perhaps discuss a different treatment. The Patients Association (www.patients-association.org.uk) offers a helpful leaflet, You and Your Doctor: How to Get the Most Out of Your Consultation.
• If you are still concerned about your GP, you can ask to see a different doctor in the same practice or change to a different GP surgery. If you want to see a different consultant on the NHS, you will have to be referred by your GP and the process may take some time. The new consultant will be told they are giving a second opinion. If you want to be treated by this consultant, it will need to be arranged with the doctors and hospital.
• You can choose to go privately and there are now options online as well. One patient health platform, www.diagnose.me, connects patients with experts worldwide. Patients can choose a specialist, have medical records, test results and scans sent over electronically and receive a report, overview and recommendations for further examinations or treatment within one to four days. The average cost is £100.
• For more information, read the NHS Constitution for England at www.gov.uk. Citizens Advice also has a guide to NHS patients’ rights (www.citizensadvice.org.uk), which includes ‘Seeing a consultant’ and covers second opinions.
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BOOK OF THE WEEK; A Pony in the Bedroom by Susan Dunne
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to suffer from a condition on the autistic spectrum? Author Susan Dunne has Asperger’s syndrome and in this book describes her isolation and detachment from other people but not from animals. Susan, an English literature graduate, wrote it to explain how being with horses rescued her from severe post-traumatic stress disorder following a brutal assault and rape. It is tough and in some places tragic but also hopeful and heart-warming.
• Published by Jessica Kingsley, price £12.99. To order a copy for £9.74, a 25 per cent discount, until 6 September, go to www.you-bookshop.co.uk, 0808 272 0808; free p&p on orders over £12
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR BABY'S VISION
The charity Blind Children UK wants to raise awareness of vision problems in babies. Newborns are examined on leaving hospital and part of the check involves their eyes. But some conditions may not be evident immediately. By around six weeks, however, parents may notice something is amiss and it is vital they talk to their health visitor and GP.
Symptoms to look out for:
Are your baby’s eyes red, inflamed, itchy or excessively watery? Does he (or she) rub his eyes excessively? Do they look cloudy? Are the eyelids puffy or swollen? Does he poke his eyes? Do they appear to wobble or to be constantly in motion? Is there anything unusual about how the eyes look? Do the centres of the eyes look white in photographs? Is your baby’s head posture unusual when looking at something? Does bright light cause him discomfort? Blind Children UK's support line is 080o-781 1444/www.blindchildrenuk.org