"Obtaining specialist orthopaedic advice"

About: Devon Referral Support Services Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (Wonford) / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

I snapped my Achilles tendon and after six months my ankle had not repaired satisfactorily and my doctor agreed that I should return to the hospital for specialist orthopaedic advice. My doctor told me that he had made the referral to the hospital and that I should expect a letter from the hospital with an appointment date.

Ten days later I received a letter from an organisation calling itself Devon Referral Support Services. The letter confirmed that I had been referred for a specialist orthopaedics assessment and asked me to telephone them and confirm the information in the letter that they had sent me.

When I telephoned I was told that I would be hearing from my local hospital with an appointment date. There appeared to be no benefit in involving the Service in my case and extra cost was involved and a delay in my treatment.

Incidentally, the declared purpose of DRSS is "Everything we do supports healthy people, living healthy lives in healthy communities. " I suspect that no healthy person living a healthy life in a healthy community is referred to DRSS - Each patient that is referred presumably has some medical problem or they would not be referred.

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Response from Rachael Burridge, Head of Operations and Reporting, DRSS, NEW Devon CCG

Dear ‘Bemused of Yeoford’,

Thank you for taking the time to feedback your experiences of using DRSS which I’m sorry to hear have not been positive.

As you are aware we are a referral contact centre that works on behalf of GP practices to book appointments for patients with specialists. Providers of specialist services across Devon make their services available for GPs to book into via the national e-Referrals System. Some services can be directly booked into, others are more complex and the specialists prefer to review the referral letters before deciding whether a diagnostic test or scan is required prior to a patient seeing the specialist in order to save multiple trips to hospitals or clinics.

RD&E’s foot and ankle service (where I’m guessing you’ve chosen to see a specialist) has such a Clinical Assessment Service in place which unfortunately means that we, at DRSS, are unable to book appointments directly with patients. This is a frustration for both patients and DRSS, as you rightly say it’s incongruous for a referral booking service to not be able to book appointments.

We work closely with all our local providers to improve the referral process and access to services, and we are currently working with RD&E to address the issue of booking foot and ankle appointments directly with patients, as well as a number of other Clinical Assessment Services the hospital have in place. Feedback such as you’ve given is really helpful in supporting this work as it highlights the frustrations experienced by patients on a daily basis.

I hope this goes some way to addressing your concern but if you would like to discuss the situation further please feel free to contact me either by phone on 07971 149 644 or by email on rachael.burridge@nhs.net.

Many thanks again for sharing your experience and apologies that our service hasn’t been able to meet your very reasonable expectations on this occasion.


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