"Why can consultants opt out?"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

Following the referral from my GP I received a letter from DART. I waited the required 3 days and called the number as instructed. I was told I could not be given an appointment as the consultant concerned had not yet approved the referral or probably even read the referral letter. I was told they would call me the following week. As I had no communication of any kind I phoned about ten days later. This time i was told that the consultant I was referred to did not use this referral system and I should await an appointment letter direct. That was two weeks ago and no appointment has come. Why do you have a system that the consultants can opt out of at will and why send a letter that is completely irrelevant to to the patient? It is also remarkable that the letter is not dated. I presume this is to avoid allowing the referral to become part of the referral statistics.

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

Dear ‘wish829’,

Thank you for your feedback, we very much appreciate patients taking the time to let us know about their experience of our service. I am very sorry that your experience was not a more positive one.

With the details that you’ve given I can’t be entirely sure of what has happened regarding your referral. However, it sounds very much like your referral was sent to a Clinical Assessment Service. These are used by hospitals when a particular clinic (cardiology is a common example) is complicated and each patient requires a different set of tests. This means that it is not possible for us at DART to book an appointment because we don’t know which tests are required first and so the specialist will review the letter before any appointments are given. In some cases the hospital will book an appointment for the patient outside of our shared system but not send us the details – there are a variety of reasons for this – and so we at DART cannot tell you when the appointment will be.

As I said, I cannot be sure that this is what has happened in your case. If you would like I would be happy to investigate the matter further and give you a fuller answer. You would need to phone me on 01626 883888 so that I can take some details from you. I work Monday – Friday 9 until 5.

The reason that patients are all asked to phone DART is so that we can offer you a choice of hospitals and, had you chosen a different hospital, we may have been able to book the appointment for you over the phone.

There is no date field on the letter that your GP sent you as it was not seen as necessary information for the patient – you will of course know when you went to see your GP. The date that you start waiting for treatment is recorded electronically and is passed from the GP surgery to the hospital so please rest assured that your full waiting time is used when reports are produced.

Kind regards,


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