FAQs – Referral Backlog Triage for the NHS

Published: 8th June 2020
We also triage waiting lists for Trusts with backlogs of referrals that have built up due to COVID-19. In this article, we share answers to the questions we’ve been asked the most since we launched this service.
We are now triaging waiting lists for Trusts with backlogs of referrals that have built up due to COVID-19. The service uses our National Consultant Network (NCN). It’s the same network we launched 2 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 Backlog Triage service for the NHS. 
FAQs – Referral Backlog 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.

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? 

Before a project starts, your specialty teams will need to provide access to local protocols, e.g. what community services are available, which diagnostics can be booked directly, the CCG approval process for minor procedures, 2ww forms, protocols etc.

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? 

  • It reduces backlogs and makes sure the remaining referrals are correctly marked as urgent or routine.
  • 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. Equally some referrals are booked into diagnostics or community services resulting in faster pathway access for patients.

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.

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.), 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 100-200 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?

It is charged per referral with no set-up costs or ongoing commitments.

13. How long does it take to get started?

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


Related links:

Referral Backlog Triage

Area Case Study | Front door Triage in Northamptonshire


If you have any additional questions or are interested in finding out more, please call us on 01865 261467 or email hello@consultantconnect.org.uk.

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.