"Disgraceful wait for a gastro appointment"

About: Royal Shrewsbury Hospital / Gastroenterology Telford referral and quality service (TRAQS)

(as the patient),

I was referred at the beginning of September 2012 to a specific consultant at the Princess Royal, Telford. I was subsequently written to by TRAQS to say that they had been trying to contact me (not that I can see they tried very hard) without success and that they would be handling my referral.

Then... nothing.

I phoned in November and was told very politely that the referral had been sent to the Consultant's secretary, and that TRAQS had nothing to do with waiting times - which begs the question, what exactly is the point of TRAQS?

I wouldn't have minded quite so much but my GP was threatening not to prescribe me my medicine without a 'shared care agreement' signed by a consultant, not that any of my previous 4 GPs in different PCTs had worried about such a thing.

Eventually, in late January, I received a phone call giving me eight hours notice of an appointment with a completely different doctor in Shrewsbury. The consultant as good as admitted that they had been told by the managers to stay on late and see me as I was about to breach their waiting time target, but they saw me and re-referred me again to the consultant I was supposed to see in Telford in the first place. No sign of a shared care agreement though...

I have never waited so long for an appointment in any of the other places I have lived, and I have no idea what TRAQS do or what service they provide other than to add yet another layer of pointless bureaucracy that has to be paid for by the taxpayer.

The standard of service that I received overall ranges from poor to abysmal, including GP (who I felt was patronising, condescending, and seems to feel no need to inform patients when they decide not to fill repeat prescriptions), receptionists, and the nurse at the hospital who refused to interrupt their conversation with their friend even to acknowledge me.

The consultant was at least polite and helpful, even if it didn't appear that they had a full set of my notes.

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Response from Helen Handy, TRAQS & CAB Co-Ordinator, Telford and Wrekin CCG

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback following your referral via TRAQS.

I am disappointed to hear of your experience.

To answer your question - What is the point of TRAQS?

TRAQS was created in June 2012 as a 'referral hub' for all first outpatient appointments for further care from GP practices within the Telford and Wrekin area. TRAQS discusses Choice of provider with patients (unless, as in your case the referral is addressed to a specific consultant at a specific hospital) GPs have been provided with a supply of TRAQS leaflets which should be given to all patients who are to be referred for further care. This leaflet clearly explains what TRAQS is and how the referral process works. It seems from your comments that unfortunately your practice failed to provide you with a TRAQS leaflet. This leaflet also lets patients know that TRAQS will be attempting to contact them and to ask them to ensure that the practice have up to date contact information to enable TRAQS to discuss the Choice options the patients has. In this day and age it is understandable that patients are wary of people calling them. The leaflet reassures the patient that a call from TRAQS is not a 'cold call'

Our first attempt to contact patients is always via a phone call. Obviously without this essential information we are unable to contact the patient in a timely manner and therefore avoid unnecessary delay.

Unfortunately TRAQS do not have control over the internal processes of the hospitals and their waiting times. I am sorry that your appointment was booked at RSH instead of PRH and with a different consultant. However, this is not something which TRAQS could have foreseen or controlled.

We have recently changed our processes within TRAQS and endeavour to 'chase up' any queries with the hospital staff on behalf of the patient to avoid patients having to make numerous phone calls.

Thank you again for taking the time to bring your concerns to our attention. Please be assured that the TRAQS team take all comments, both positive or negative seriously as it helps us to develop the service further for the benefit of the patients within the Telford and Wrekin area.

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Response from Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

I am really sorry to hear that you found the TRAQS service to be a pointless bureaucracy and I hope that they will respond to you direct about this. Your experience does not sound great, and whilst the consultant was polite and helpful I am particularly disappointed that the nurse at the hospital did not interrupt her conversation to speak to you. Frontline staff across the Trust are developing new customer service standards and your experience is a great example for this. I was talking with one of our outpatient nurses about this and she said "Sometimes an urgent clinical discussion should be completed as that is the right thing to do, but we all must give the patient our full attention as soon as possible and apologise politely for any delay and if possible explain the reason why, and we definitely must not put our personal conversations ahead of our patients needs during work time. A little courtesy goes a very long way. I have two basic rules: put myself in their shoes; treat others as I would wish to be treated myself". I hope that with the support of people like this nurse we can begin to eradicate experiences like yours.

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