"Called to make an appointment - told I'd get a letter"

About: Devon Access and Referral Team (DART)

(as the patient),

I called today at around 11. Although I was first in the queue I still have to listen to ringing for 10 mins. (Music might have been nicer.)

After giving all my details I was put on hold a further 3-4 mins whilst my information was checked. (a beeping noise! again music might be nice)

Only to be told that the department I need to see don't have any appointments, and that they will send me a letter with an appointment in 2-3 weeks! So I called, it cost me money, just to be told I'd get a letter! It makes me wonder why DART are even in existence?

My last doctor referred me to a specialist, I got a letter with an appointment. I didn't need to call someone to be told I'd get a letter. With large budget cuts I am surprised this service has survived. I found it an irritation rather than a help.

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Response from Gemma Smith, Project Support Manager, DART, NHS Devon

Dear ‘Also Confused’,

Thank you for taking the time to post your comments about our service, we find the feedback received from patients to be invaluable in helping us to improve the experience for future patients. I am sorry that you feel that DART wasn’t very useful in your case.

The DART team is here to offer patients a choice of time and place for their treatment, wherever possible, and to provide information that patients may require before they make their choice. The service has been designed, and is overseen by, local GPs who feel that this service is the best way for patients to make their appointments.

Patients are asked to contact DART to discuss which hospitals are available to choose from, we have access to the hospital appointments to enable patients to take this into account when choosing their hospital. Although the hospital you chose did not have any available appointments at the time of your booking, you may have chosen to be seen in a different hospital where we could have offered you an appointment.

Unfortunately at times we at DART are unable to make an appointment. The hospitals are aware that this does cause problems for patients when trying to book an appointment and they are increasing their appointments to try and avoid this happening, but as demand rises the clinics can become full leaving us no choice but to pass your details on to the hospital for them to contact you directly.

With regards to your phone call, during the mid morning and early afternoon we do experience a high number of calls and our telephone system will direct to the next available member of staff. I apologise it took a little longer than expected to answer you however, some conversations with patients can last a little longer than expected when helping them to make their appointment. I can assure you that we endeavour to answer all patient calls as quickly as possible and monitor the volume of calls on a daily basis, making adjustments where needed.

Thank you for your suggestion of using music, we have used music previously and received a high number of complaints and we have chosen not to use it as part of our telephone system.

I hope this has gone some way to answer your comments, please feel free to respond to my reply if you have any further queries.

Best Wishes

Gemma Tremlett

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