"Once again, lack of thought for the patient......"

About: Newcastle Dental Hospital

What could be improved

I've been referred by my dentist and three weeks later have received an envelope from the hospital - fantastic, I think to myself. Upon opening the envelope I read a letter saying I have been put on the waiting in 'Conservation' - what the heck is this, I ask.

I then read on looking for the date of my appointment but nothing, only mention to say that when my appointment is due I will be able to phone to make an appointment. Mmmm....a letter telling me I'm on the waiting list, something I assumed having been told by my dentist that I was being referred, but no indication of when the appointment might be nor how far in advance I would be contacted in order to make an appointment.

Upon calling the hospital, I am told that I should get a consultation 16-17 weeks after receipt of the dentist's referral and that I would be able to make the appointment approximately four weeks beforehand - why couldn't this have been stated in the letter? It would make sense. Also, being told I was on the waiting list for 'Conservation' meant nothing to me, an explanation in the letter would have helped.

My suggestion would be for the hospital to give information up front in the letter and don't keep people in the dark prompting anxiety and wasted time and cost to ask the obvious which I omitted from the letter. Money is not needed to address this matter, just a simple re-think of how it is seen by the recipient.

So the point of the letter is? I guess it is NHS-speak for acknowledging the referral from my dentist.

Anything else?

I haven't even been for my appointment yet though if the treatment is as bad as the procedure for making an appointment I fear for what lies ahead.

Story from NHS Choices

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Responses

Response from Newcastle Dental Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to post your comments on NHS Choices. We are sorry to hear that you found our referral acknowledgement letter confusing. The purpose of the letter is to inform patients that we have received their referral and to advise them of the process to book their appointment. Conservation refers to the role and aim of treatment in this department to ‘conserve’ the teeth rather than remove them.

As the letter details we ask patients to contact us to book their appointment. This allows patients to choose the time and date of their appointment rather than us sending an appointment which may be inconvenient for that patient. Our aim is to meet the needs of the individual and also to reduce the number of patients who fail to attend their appointment. The process enables us to only offer appointments to patients who contact us to confirm that they still require an appointment. Previously we have found that as many as 10% of referred patients do not then contact us to arrange an appointment and this is consistent with the numbers who fail to attend when they are offered pre-arranged dates.

Following receipt of your comments we have refined the opening paragraph of our letter to hopefully make the purpose of the letter clearer.

Thank you once again for your feedback

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