"DART - felt like a complete waste of my time"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART) Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (Wonford) / Cardiology

(as the patient),

For the second time in a few months I have had a referral handled by DART (Devon Access and Referral Team). The first time I was told they didn't have my information from my GP but I would be contacted with an offer of an appointment, but if I hadn't heard within 4 weeks, to call another number which they gave me at the time.

I was never contacted and subsequently lost the number I was given. As it happens (and perhaps fortunately) the medical need for that appointment seems to have subsided.

I recently returned to my GP and asked for a referral to my cardiac consultant as I was concerned about my heart (after a long history of problems).

My GP did an ECG which confirmed quite significant atrial fibrillation so they set the process in motion. Siily me was expecting an appointment to see my consultant (who has been treating me for over 9 years) but,no, another letter from DART and another phone call and another "you should hear something within 2 to 3 weeks but if you don't please call us back".

Frankly this is just ridiculous, whatever happened to the old simple process of the GP writing to the consultant for a referral and the appointment arriving in the post within a couple of weeks. It still seems to happen like that in some cases, but not in others.

This seems to me just like a totally unnecessary bureaucratic layer in the NHS at a time when costs are absolutely critical. For goodness sake abandon this silly idea and get back to the way it used to be which was much more efficient and patient friendly.

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

Dear ‘Pete M’,

Thank you for contacting us regarding the problems you have had with DART. I’m sorry that you feel that the service is not worthwhile; we do try to help patients as much as possible. Our service is here to give patients a choice of hospital so that they can choose the time and place that suits them the best for their treatment. This is why you were asked to call us instead of just being referred using the old method of a letter directly from your GP to your consultant. Had you decided you wanted to be seen by a different consultant or at a different hospital, we would have been able to accommodate that.

Some, but not all, of the hospitals in the area have in place what is known as a Clinical Assessment Service for their Cardiology departments. Usually, when a patient phones DART, we are able to offer a choice of hospitals and view the appointments at each so that the patient can compare waiting times between services. We are then able to book the appointments with the patient on the phone. However, as Cardiology patients frequently require a diagnostic test before their initial appointment with the consultant, some hospitals ask us not to book an appointment with the patient but to send the details on to them. A specialist will then review the referral and book any tests required, for before the appointment with the consultant, so as not to waste everyone’s time.

I can understand that it must be frustrating to phone DART for your appointment only to be told that the hospital in question is going to have to contact you directly. However, one of the main aims of DART is to offer patients a choice of hospital and, when requested, to provide information to the patient that may help them make their decision. Had you chosen a different hospital, we may have been able to book the appointment for you there and then and so, until you have made your choice your details cannot be passed on.

Regarding your earlier referral, I am unsure as to what happened. If you still haven’t heard from the department directly, and haven’t contacted them or us to cancel the referral, I can only assume you should still be on there waiting list and so should have heard about an appointment by now. If you would like to, please contact our patient helpdesk on 01626 883888 and we will check the status of this referral and cancel it if that is what you would like.

I hope that this has answered some of your queries, please feel free to contact us again if you do not feel that the matter is resolved. I can be reached on the helpdesk number above if you would rather discuss it over the phone.

Kind regards,


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