"DART leads to reduced patient care & satisfaction & higher costs"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

My doctor wanted to send me to a pain clinic.

A WEEK later (failure #1) I received a letter from the surgery with a UBRN and tel no to call to make an appointment via DART. What was wrong with the previous system where the dr gave me a tel no to call during the session and I did it the same day?

I called after an unnecessary week of pain. The UBRN no was not recognised (failure #2) and the operator said she’d call the surgery to check the number. She didn’t call back (failure #3).

I called again the next day. Same palaver (failure #4) but this time i insisted the operator check for my details by name. She found them and my NHS - this enabled her to find the correct UBRN # - apparently the number had been incorrectly written on the letter from the surgery (failure #5).

She asked if I wanted to go to the Exeter pain clinic (local) and I said yes. She attempted to get me an appointment at this clinic but came back with ‘the clinic has not yet released its next set of appointments so we can’t give you a date’ (failure #6). Then ‘you’ll need to call them and tell them you need an appointment and HOPEFULLY they’ll release one for you’ (putting the donkey on my back - failure #7). Then ‘you’ll need your name, date of birth and NHS # (this is essentially the old system and entirely defeats the object of DART and the UBRN - failure #8)

Eventually she agreed to contact the clinic herself and have them send me an appointment although she added that ‘if you haven’t heard anything in 4 WEEKS then something’s gone wrong and so get back in touch with us’ (failure #9).

You’ve added another level of bureaucracy to a previous system and it doesn’t work. Its far worse than before and, given my experience, clearly costs more in people time.

A week and half since my doctors visit and I still don’t have an appointment and may not get one for 4 weeks whereas,under the old system, Id have got my appointment date a week and a half ago. My customer satisfaction is at an all time low. How ridiculous

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

Dear Camilla,

Thank you for taking the time to feed back to us regarding your experience of DART and I’m sorry that you have been disappointed with the service you received.

Regarding the delay in receiving the letter from your surgery and the incorrect UBRN, if you would like to let me know which surgery you are registered with I will feedback to them on your behalf. I don’t need your details, just the surgery name, so it can remain anonymous.

I am very sorry that the person you spoke to at DART did not return your call and also that they did not offer to look up your referral details using your name and date of birth the first time. The booking teams should know how to do this and we will remind them that they have this function available to them.

I am also sorry to hear that we were unable to book you an appointment once the UBRN issue was sorted out. It is an unfortunate and ongoing issue that certain services at certain hospitals are oversubscribed and so all of the planned appointments become fully booked and we have no choice but to put patients on a waiting list. This is not how the Choose & Book system is intended to work and we do keep in regular contact with local hospitals about the problem and every effort is being made to eradicate it.

Once we pass your details to your chosen hospital, it is then up to that hospital to contact you with an appointment date and they have a recommended timeframe in which to do that. This is why you were advised that you should hear within 4 weeks and we tell patients this so that, if something should go wrong e.g. your appointment letter goes missing in the post, patients won’t keep waiting indefinitely before contacting us again.

Once a patient is on a waiting list we would not expect them to contact the hospital themselves (although they can if they wish) and so I am unsure as to why you were asked to as this is not how our process is set up. If you would like me to look into this matter further, please feel free to call me to discuss. I would need to take some details from you but will obviously treat the matter in the strictest confidence.

I’d like to reassure you that, even though you feel it has taken longer than it would have under the previous system to receive your appointment details, the appointment itself will not have been delayed in any way. The date on which patients start waiting for their appointment is recorded and appointments are all given ‘in turn’.

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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