"Couldn't get a referral"

About: Devon Referral Support Services Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (Wonford) / General surgery

(as the patient),

Recently attended St Thomas health centre for a pain to the left hand side of my abdomen. After what I consider a thorough investigation it was put to me in pleasant, professional manner that I had a "flair up" (cannot remember the concise diagnosis) of a previous hernia. It was put to me that the previous surgeon who was still at Exeter was best placed to make the diagnosis and issue a repair plan. The surgery issued a referral notice within a good time, my complaint is not with St Thomas Health Centre.

On calling the telephone number for Devon Referral Support Services I was given a choice of 3 hospitals that I could attend but Exeter did not have any appointments at that time. I was given a choice and chose to wait until an appointment became available and be contacted but not with a choice of available dates just an appointment.

No indication of time was given and given the catalogue of previous waits and cancellations which have occurred to friends, family and myself understand sitting back and waiting equals pain, confusion and hardship.

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Response from Devon Referral Support Services

Dear ‘Graham17’,

Thank you for taking the time to feedback your opinion on your experience, it is so useful to us to know what patients feel about our service.

I’m sorry that we were unable to provide you with a timescale for your wait for an appointment. The service you require must be currently fully booked which is why we were unable to book your appointment on the phone. When this happens it is up to the hospital to provide more clinic dates and we are not given information on when this will happen which is why we couldn’t tell you. Please be assured that we do give patients all the information that we have available.

I hope that you were happy with the way we dealt with your call in general and I wish you well for your future care.

Best wishes,

Susan Pearce

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Response from Peter Brain, Volunteer, Healthwatch Devon

Dear 'Graham17'

The comments and responses on the web-site of Patient Opinion are shared with us at Healthwatch.

This experience you describe was unsettling not least because you were unclear about the different responsibilities of the various bodies. As Ms Pearce says the Referral Service does not control the availability of the various treatments. It is good that you could share this experience through Patient Opinion and I hope you soon get a date which 'works'.

More generally we are building a picture of the provision of services in Devon and these comments will help the NHS and other providers develop and improve their services.

If you wish to discuss any health or social care issues with us in confidence, including seeking advice or information about services, please call 0800 520 0640, or email info@healthwatchdevon.co.uk or go on-line to www.healthwatchdevon.co.uk.

Yours sincerely

Peter Brain


Healthwatch Devon is the consumer champion for Health and Social Care in Devon.

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Response from Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (Wonford)

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. t is difficult to comment on your case individually without being privy to more detail about you and when this difficulty occurred. With most services we offer appointment slots within 6 weeks, including a range of dates and times. However, we suspect that the service was oversubscribed at the point your referral was made, at which point Devon Referral Support Service would have notified the hospital and extra clinics were then sought to meet the additional capacity. Whilst it remains a Trust priority to provide this ensure patients' needs are met, this is balanced against the demand for the individual service. Amounts of clinics and availability to offer a choice of dates is dependent on the capacity needed and this is measured on the number of appointments required, meaning we may host one or more clinics and therefore one or more date. We appreciate that being faced with a delay or cancelled appointment is frustrating for all concerned. However, we would urge anyone with a concern about their clinical condition to contact the appropriate health service.