"The letter does not say what I am being referred for"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

I received a letter from DART on which it says ‘Important info from your GP’. However, I have read the letter thoroughly and cannot find any information specific to me and my GP. The only thing that has any relevance is the request for me to make an appointment. As it has no date on the letter nor does it tell me what the appointment is for, I am left guessing what treatment it is for. While this may be fine for those people only having one treatment, it can be quite confusing for people like me who are attending the hospital for several different things.

When I call the number, I am asked for a reference number and password from the letter; they then also go on to ask me a series of other questions such as my address and date of birth – if they are going to ask all those questions anyway why do they have with a number and password?

I was then given a choice of which hospital I would like to be treated at. I didn’t mind which but was told that I had to make a choice. I said I would rather go to Newton Abbott but didn’t mind going to Torbay. They told me a date very far in advance for the appointment so I asked when the appointment would be if I went to Torbay and it would be much much sooner. Why, when I said I didn’t mind, did they not offer me the sooner appointment?

I have been through a lot and always had excellent service form the NHS in the past but I have never experienced anything like this – In my view it is bureaucracy gone mad!

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Responses

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

Dear ‘friend723’,

Thank you for contacting us and letting us know about your experience and I’m sorry that you have been left feeling frustrated.

I’m sorry that you feel the form you received did not hold enough information, we do rely on the GP having had a discussion with the patient about their referral but, as you say, this is not necessarily suited to those with multiple health issues. However, the UBRN allows us at DART to view some of the details about your referral and we are always happy to explain to patients when they phone which problem this particular referral is for.

The reason we double check your phone number, address and date of birth when you call (as well as your password) is to ensure that we have the correct details on file. We have had incidents in the past where a patient has moved house and neglected to tell their GP surgery, or the details haven’t been updated in time, and so their hospital appointment letters have gone to the wrong address and they’ve missed their appointment. Similarly, sometimes the hospital tries to contact patients by phone to offer sooner appointments, that have become available through cancellations, and cannot contact them due to phone numbers not being up to date. If we ask when you call then we can ensure that all the correct details are sent over to the hospital along with your referral to avoid these types of problem. The booking reference number (or UBRN) is still used because it relates to the particular problem you are being referred for that day and avoids confusion with any other issues that are ongoing at the time.

I’d also like to apologise for the confusion around the choice of hospital and the dates that you were offered. Without more details it is difficult for me to investigate this fully but I would normally say that what you expected to happen would have happened i.e. we would offer you the choice of dates at both hospitals to see which was more convenient for you. I’m sorry that this didn’t happen and I will raise it at our next team meeting.

I hope that the remainder of your care goes smoothly.

Kind regards,

Susan

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