About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

I am unsure of how DART makes appointment booking easier. I have always been happy with the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E).

I have had an gastroscopy and a US scan both booked direct with RD&E and Axminster hospital by my GP. As a result of these tests my GP feels I need to see a consultant. She wrote to DART with my details, DART then wrote asking for me to telephone them. I phoned DART who can't make an appointment but tell me they will write to RD&E asking them to give me an appointment. RD&E will then contact me directly, some time within the next four weeks.

This does not seem to be a satisfactory way to proceed.

I have been told to contact DART again if I don't hear anything in 3 weeks. Even when I get an appointment, who knows when it will be!

I know I will need to operation and will just have to put up with the pain in the meantime!

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

Dear Mrs Frustrated,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for contacting us to feed back your experience. We greatly appreciate patients taking the time to let us know how the service is working for them.

I’m sorry that you are unhappy with the service you have received. The reason that we could not make an appointment for you is that the RD&E have a Clinical Assessment Services in place for gastroenterology patients. This is because there are a number of diagnostic tests that may be required before you meet with a consultant, and these vary from case to case, so the hospital asks that they book the appointments and can therefore arrange the timings so that your results are available when you first meet with the specialist. Patients usually hear from the hospital within 3 weeks and we ask patients to call us if they have not within that time purely as a precaution. This time allows the hospital to read your referral letter and set up the relevant diagnostics appointments as described above.

However, this system is not in place at all hospitals, or for all specialities, and so the reason that you were asked to phone DART (rather than your GP contacting the RD&E directly) is so that you could be offered a choice of hospitals to be seen at. Taunton and North Devon do not use Clinical Assessment Services for their gastroenterology appointments and so we are able to offer a choice of appointments while patients are on the phone. It is up to the individual hospitals how they set up their booking systems and is not something we can influence. The hospitals do recognise that it can be frustrating to have to wait to hear but, when letting the appointments be booked by us, have found in the past that they had to change a number of appointments after they had been made and it was felt that this was more frustrating for the patient.

I’d like to reassure you that, even though you feel it has taken longer than it would have under the previous system to receive your appointment details, the appointment itself will not have been delayed in any way. The date on which patients start waiting for their appointment is recorded and appointments are all seen ‘in turn’.

Best wishes,


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