FAQs – Referral Triage for the NHS

Published: 24th May 2022
In this article, we share answers to the questions we’ve been asked the most since we launched our Referral Triage service.

For the last two years, our Referral Triage service has been supporting Trusts with capacity challenges to deliver referral triage.

The service uses our National Consultant Network (NCN) of NHS consultants. It’s the same network we launched 4 years ago which currently supports more than 50 NHS trusts with their capacity to deliver Advice & Guidance.

Below you’ll find answers to the questions we’ve been asked the most since we launched our Referral Triage service for the NHS. 

FAQs – Referral Triage for the NHS

1. Is the triage for ongoing referral assessment or for waiting lists?

It can be used for both. Due to the pandemic and the backlogs of referrals that have built up, many areas are asking us to triage their waiting list backlogs. However, our Referral Triage service is also supporting areas with new referrals as they come in, so a front-door approach.

We will assess the current triage /assessment services set up in a specialty and work out a model that adds value with the local clinical leads and service managers.

2. Which consultants deliver the triage?

We’re utilising NHS consultants from our National Consultant Network of 17 specialties.

3. How do you ensure that the consultants triage the same way as our local consultants? 

Once we’ve allocated the ‘virtual’ NHS consultants doing the triage, we set up a briefing meeting between them and your local clinical lead for the respective specialty. It’s important to discuss what’s available in your area, for example in terms of diagnostics in the community, rapid access clinics etc. If certain services are unavailable, the ‘virtual’ NHS consultant will be able to advise on the best alternatives and treatments in the interim. A sample from the first few referrals in a new project will have a second review from the local team to ensure everything is being reviewed according to your trust’s preference.

4. What is the timeframe?

We have the capacity to deal with large backlogs. For example, one project reviewed 3,450 referrals in under 3 weeks.

5. What are the benefits of using this service? 

  • Results in a clinically validated and prioritised waiting list
  • Manages high volumes quickly
  • Results in many referrals being re-prioritised
  • Identifies important upgrades as well as downgrades
  • Local consultants can use the extra capacity to focus on treating patients who do need to be seen and see them quicker
  • Many referrals are being returned with advice which means reassurance for patients and access to immediate treatment via their GP
  • Directs referrals to the right service first time
  • Initiates diagnostics where needed
  • Follows local pathways
  • Communicates all results via e-RS
  • Charged on a per referral basis
  • 100% outcome reporting

6. What are the outcomes from referral triage?

Outcomes vary by specialty.

On average, 20-30% of referrals are being returned to the GP with Advice & Guidance. Small percentages are being upgraded into urgent and 2ww and, when safe to do so, some urgent referrals are downgraded to routine. Referrals can also be rebooked into alternative specialties if there has been a mistake in identifying the correct specialty, thereby avoiding a delay in patient care.

Outcomes and impact of the service, as of April 2022, for over 20,000 referral cases across 14 specialties:


7. What is the feedback so far?

GPs and patients have appreciated the timely reassurance and ability to commence a treatment plan when Advice & Guidance was given. Local consultants feel reassured that waiting lists are been re-prioritised in the same way as a local consultant would do while the local team can concentrate on seeing patients who need to be seen most urgently.

8. Are some specialties more suitable than others?

We have been asked to deliver this service across a wide range of specialties. Volumes seem particularly high in paediatrics (including sub-services like paediatric orthopaedics, paediatric ENT, etc.), neurology, surgery, ENT, gynaecology, cardiology, and orthopaedics.

9. Can I test out this service for one specialty only? 

Yes, we recommend that you select one of your specialties mostly impacted by backlogs. We can triage your entire waiting list of the specialty or a sample. We usually recommend a sample of at least 200 to get substantial data and feedback.

10. How are the triage results communicated and actioned?

Via e-RS.

11. Do we need to involve any local admin resources?


12. What is the charging model?

There’s a one-off set up fee and then a per referral charge, depending on volumes.

13. How long does it take to get started?

The key element is availability for the clinical briefing meeting. After that meeting, we usually start latest 72 hours later.


For more information, please visit our Referral Triage landing page, email hello@consultantconnect.org.uk or call us on 01865 261 467

Related Case Studies:

Related Blog Articles:

Contact us

For more information about how we work with commissioners, hospitals & mental health trusts to improve patient care, please get in touch.

Join a webinar

Listen to health experts from the comfort of your desk as we bring the experts to you in our series of online webinars.

Join our mailing list

Join our mailing list and we'll keep you informed of our latest blogs, project news, and upcoming webinar dates and topics.