"Devon Access and Referral Team "

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

I went to see my GP about a problem that needed a referral to a specialist. The GP said the chances of it being anything serious were very low at my age but the referral was made just in case. I received a letter from DART, called the number and said I would get communication from Torbay Hospital by a certain date (I was not given any choice as I was told there wasn't one for my particular referral). This date came and went and after leaving it a few days I called DART again to chase it up. I was told curtly that "it wouldn't be us calling you". I was then given the booking department's number to call. I did so and about a week later my appointment letter came through for Teignmouth Hospital not Torbay! (This made no difference to me but it seemed to defeat the point of having DART)

I feel in my case DART served as an unecessary step that seemed to slow the process down. Although I appreciate patients may like/have the right to a choice of Hospitals, I feel that with most medical problems the quicker they are treated the easier they are to treat (quick treatment is more cost effective and may even be life-saving in some cases!). Would it not be better for the patient to be able to nominate a hospital (if they want to) at the time of referral and then be contacted or contact DART if they can't have that one or if they need to be treated elsewhere? There seemed to be a lack of communication between the appointments team and DART.

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Response from Suzanna Morris, Project Support Manager, NHS Devon

Dear ‘edb’

Thank you for your feedback on your experience you have had when booking your appointment.

From the information you have given me, it sounds like your GP has referred you through to a service which is set up at our local hospitals as a Clinical Assessment Service. This is to enable a consultant to review your referral letter and decide if it is more appropriate for you to go to the hospital for a test/procedure or to see the consultant in an Outpatient setting. The DART Team book a date onto Choose and Book, the chosen hospital then has the responsibility to review your letter and advise the patient of the most appropriate care pathway.

The DART service has been set up with the aim of ensuring that patients are given a choice of hospitals to be treated at and, where possible, a choice of date and time for their appointment. The standard process for all GP surgeries in the area is to send their referrals to DART so that we can do this. If your GP wants you to be seen by a particular specialist or at a particular hospital, perhaps for medical reasons or because of your preference, then they can address the letter accordingly and we will follow those instructions. Having said that, when the patient phones in we can advise if the wait is particularly long for that specialist or hospital and patients can then opt to change their preference in order to be seen quicker elsewhere.

May I apologise that you felt that when you phoned to chase your appointment we spoke to you in an inappropriate manner. We would normally expect to follow up any enquires with the hospital on your behalf. It sounds as if this didn’t happen on this occasion so I will discuss this with the DART team to ensure it happens wherever possible in the future.

If you would like to talk to someone at DART about any remaining issues with your referral please feel free to contact our Patient Helpline on 01626 883888.

Kind Regards


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