As focus shifts from price led protection to quality led protection; demand for additional benefits from insurers will only continue to grow. Second medical opinion services are one such added benefit. It provides clients with the ability to confirm or dismiss doubts or concerns about a diagnosis or treatment plan by speaking to an alternative medical specialist. With a number of insurers now offering second medical opinion (SMO) services, we investigate whether all services offered are the same.

Access to SMO services are dependent on the insurer and also the product type. Even within the same insurer different propositions may be offered for different product types. The table below highlights which providers offer access to such services and what products they are available on.

Vitality and Zurich do not offer second medical opinion services.

Canada Life and Guardian do not offer Income Protection or Business Protection Products. Old Mutual Wealth do not offer an Income Protection product. 

There are many reasons why a patient would value a second opinion ranging from;

  • Doubts about the diagnosis
  • Not understanding the information they have been given
  • Reassurance in the diagnosis/treatment when both consultants agree
  • The client may forge a better relationship with the doctor giving the second opinion and therefore have more confidence in what they say
  • The client could be offered a treatment that has not been considered before or may be part of a clinical trial
  • A wider range of treatments could be offered providing a choice to the client
  • Unhappiness with the treatment plan recommended; or
  • They may not feel comfortable discussing their diagnosis or treatment plan with their current doctor or consultant.

Medical treatments vary throughout the world and medical advancements are constantly changing. The best medical specialists, facilities and doctors may not always be in the UK so having access to treatment around the world is hugely beneficial. The counter argument to this is that a obtaining a SMO from a UK doctor may be in some circumstances be quicker, and as such less stressful on the client. Of those that offer SMO’s, AIG and Aviva are the only two insurers to provide access to a worldwide panel of specialists.

UK Only

Worldwide access

Aegon AIG
Canada Life AVIVA
Old Mutual Wealth
Royal London
Scottish Widows
The Exeter

There are a number of SMO suppliers in use across the market. Whilst most insurers will just partner with one and use their services across all products, Legal & General have actually partnered with two and offer Red Arc services for those taking a critical illness policy and Healix Health Services Ltd for clients with all other plans.


Second Medical Opinion service

AIG Best Doctors
Aegon Red Arc
AVIVA Best Doctors
Canada Life Red Arc
Guardian Red Arc
L&G (Critical Illness) Red Arc
L&G (all other products) Healix Health Services Ltd
LV= Square Health 
Old Mutual Wealth Red Arc
Royal London Red Arc
Scottish Widows Red Arc
The Exeter Square Health 

When discussing SMO services with clients it is useful to be able to inform them (as the life assured) that their wider family can have access to the service. Depending on the insurer (and service used in Legal & General’s Case), the family members that can access the service are different. 

The major differences are highlighted in the graph below:

Another big difference is when services can be accessed and whether services are offered at any point during the policy lifespan or at point of claim. Of the insurers that offer SMO services, all offer SMO services anytime during the policy except Canada Life and Legal and Generals Healix Health Service Ltd.

In summary, there are many areas where SMO services differ and those involved in recommend protection should be aware. SMO policies differ in many ways and some of the differences are listed below:

  • Which products SMO services are offered within
  • Is the service providing access to UK or Worldwide medical specialists?
  • Who can access the service from the life assured’s wider family
  • Is it offered at any time in the term of the contract or only at point of claim?

Of the insurers that provide SMO services, Aviva and AIG stand out due to the fact they offer access to worldwide medical services, allow access at any time during the policy, make the service available to the life assured’s wider family and offer it on all their products. 


  1. Rodney Wadham

    Best Doctors-AIG offers the Second Medical Opinion service and builds the cost into the guaranteed premium.

    Aviva charges for it as an extra on a 3 yearly reviewable premium, reserving the option to cancel it

    But AVIVA , as far as I know, is the only one to build in covering the cost of medical treatment/accommodation bills abroad for a defined number of illnesses.

    I wish other providers did this too……

    • Adam Higgs

      Hi Rodney, some great points there although it is my understanding that Aviva do not charge extra for the Second Medical Opinion service through Best Doctors.

      Global treatment is the service they offer to cover the cost of treatment/travel/accommodation if better treatment can be obtained elsewhere in the world and as you mention this is a chargeable extra.

  2. Brian Smith

    I know most of my clients would prefer the SMO and the reassurance they will be paid in the unfortunate event of a claim arising.


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