"Ludicrous Referral System"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

My GP made an urgent home call nearly 2 weeks ago, but having reached the extent of his knowledge said he would refer me to a gastroenterologist urgently, this was on the 22nd Nov.

A Dart letter was received on Saturday 27th. but they were closed all weekend, I rang on Monday 29th. and was put on hold for 2 minutes apx.while the young lady read through the referral paperwork apparently to see which route I was placed on. She said she was texting the request to Exeter and if I didn't hear in 6 weeks to call back.

I can appreciate that Exeter might have been the only choice or the best choice but I wasn't told this or offered a choice.

Having found out this site is all about choice, I am reluctant to now go back and see what choices there were in case it further delays my urgent referral, so here I wait for my urgent appointment.

If this the urgent pathway heaven help the non urgent. My husband has recently used this system and was given a choice of Exeter or Honiton he chose Honiton and then received an appointment by post for Exeter.

How can mine be called urgent as it is 2 weeks this coming Monday since referreal.

I feel this system is one more layer of beauracracy between doctor and patient, I expect to become an A & E patient soon with little hope of survival if this blows up into an emergency.

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Response from Susan Pearce, Project Support Manager, DART (Devon Access & Referral Team), NHS Devon

Dear ‘tuttifrutee’,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us and let us know about your experience of using the DART service.

I am very sorry that you were not offered a choice of hospitals when you contacted us. This is one of the main reasons that referrals are directed through the DART and so it is extremely disappointing that it didn’t happen and we will talk to the team who book the gastroenterology appointments to remind them of this. I do know that the team at the RD&E who will be currently processing your referral will offer you a choice of community hospitals in their area, if there are any that run an appropriate clinic for your problem. However, you should have been offered a wider choice such as Torbay and North Devon in case any of these suited you better.

Regarding your referral being marked as urgent I can tell you that a consultant at the RD&E will read the letter from your GP. He will then advise the booking staff of the priority and they will book you the soonest appropriate appointment available. If it was felt, from reading your letter, that you should be seen within a few days, you would have received a phone call advising you of this.

Please do phone our patient helpline on 01626 883888 if you are concerned and we can contact the RD&E on your behalf for more information or we can contact your GP if you feel that your referral is not being processed with sufficient urgency.

Kind regards,


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Update posted by tuttifrutee (the patient)

Dear Susan,

Thanks for responding. It is now 17 days since my doctor's home visit and I am still waiting to hear about an appointment from Exeter. I am louth to blame DART as I do not know when exactly they received the referral from the GP. I do know that the letter was sitiing on a doctors desk in Exeter hospital last Friday, 3rd. Dec. waiting for grading. How can this be termed as urgent?

The whole saga seeems so long winded - and meanwhile I sit and wait. I guess I'm still here but things - if left too long - may render me incapable of ACTUALLY having any diagnostic procedures. It is not known when the appointment comes, if it will be for a consultation or for a test - but if it is a consulation - and tests are required - how long will the waiting list be for that too - and - heaven forbid - I have to go through the same drawn out procedure?

I have spoken to some who have had no trouble at all and was able to choose an appointment suitable for them. Please, find out why this is happening and hopefully you can prevent a repetition

Response from Susan Pearce, Project Support Manager, DART (Devon Access & Referral Team), NHS Devon

Dear ‘tuttifretee’,

Thank you for coming back to us again and I’m sorry to hear that you are still waiting for an appointment.

Unfortunately, there is nothing that we at DART can do to help expedite your appointment. The RD&E have put this system in place for gastroenterology patients so that they can review the letter before deciding which type of appointment you need first – tests or a meeting with the consultant. Therefore it is in their hands as to how quickly they contact you regarding an appointment.

I have checked with the RD&E about waiting times for gastroenterology and, using the dates you have given us as a guide (we don’t have your details specifically), they have advised me that your referral is being dealt with within the expected time frame. This does not mean that they are happy with the waiting times but that, unfortunately, the time frame you have described is the same as others are experiencing at the moment.

I suspect that your friend who was dealt with more quickly needed an appointment with a different speciality as, usually, we are able to offer people appointments while they are on the phone to us. As I’ve said though, gastroenterology at the RD&E is a bit different.

As I mentioned before, please do feel free to phone our patient helpline if you would like us to contact the RD&E on your behalf to check for updates or we can contact your GP for you to make sure they are aware of the wait you are experiencing.

I’m sorry that I can’t be of more help but unfortunately, this is the most we can offer in the current system.

Kind regards,


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