Referral Triage and Validation | Impact and Benefits

Published: 14th March 2023
Our consultant-led long-waiter Referral Triage and Validation service clears waiting list backlogs in bulk and/or new referrals as they come in. The service uses the expertise of the NHS consultants from our National Consultant Network (NCN).
Consultant Connect – Benefits for Secondary Care - Consultant Connect

For specialties in Secondary Care, many patients awaiting care on referral to treatment (RTT) pathways are now deemed long-waiters, carrying with it a significant clinical risk.

Clearing NHS waiting lists may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Our consultant-led long-waiter Referral Triage service clears waiting list backlogs in bulk and/or new referrals as they come in. The service uses the expertise of the NHS consultants from our National Consultant Network (NCN). The service has been well received as temporary support for hospital trusts needing additional temporary capacity.

Through project implementation and continued management from our dedicated Account Management team, we ensure that all workflow, outcomes and processes are aligned before commencing and throughout the process.


The triage work results in a clinically validated and prioritised waiting list that ensures that most urgent referrals are seen first at the right service and that those referrals that can be managed in primary care are returned to Primary Care with extensive Advice & Guidance.

Key benefits include:

  • Virtual NHS consultant capacities available
  • Manages high volumes quickly
  • 17 NHS specialties available
  • Follows local pathways
  • Results in many referrals being re-prioritised
  • Returns referrals with a management plan to Primary Care where appropriate
  • Treatment plans advised and started ahead of appointments where appropriate
  • Initiates diagnostics where needed
  • Identifies important upgrades/downgrades
  • Directs referrals to the right service first time
  • Communicates all results via local referral systems (e.g. e-RS)
  • Is charged on a per referral basis 
  • 100% outcome reporting
In Numbers
  • Over 34,500 referrals triaged/validated to-date
  • Across 12 NHS Trusts 
  • In 17 NHS specialties
  • On average, 25% of referrals are returned to Primary Care with detailed advice


Project Examples:

Area 1 – Cardiology Referrals:

  • >1,200 Cardiology referrals triaged, diagnostics initiated where needed and test results sent back to the NHS consultant for review:
    • 58% of cases where diagnostics were required and reviewed were returned to Primary Care with thorough advice

Area 2 – Dermatology Referrals:

  • >750 Dermatology referrals triaged, treatment plans advised and started immediately:
    • 21% of cases given treatment plan and suitable to be seen in Primary Care
    • 24% of cases accepted and given treatment plan ahead of routine appointment

Area 3 – Gynaecology Referrals:

  • >1,300 Gynaecology referrals triaged, patients navigated to the Primary Care Gynaecology pathway and important upgrades captured:
    • 27% of cases returned to Primary Care/navigated to the Primary Care Gynaecology pathway
    • 10% of cases upgraded to urgent 2ww pathway
Commissioner Testimonials

NHS areas using our Referral triage service comment:

“Those patients that did need to be seen were triaged into urgent and routines, and into whether they needed to be seen face-to-face or virtually. We’ve managed to reduce the demand, but also managed to fast-track patients who are potentially acutely unwell into the hospital for urgent treatments.”

“Our work with Consultant Connect has been incredibly effective in driving more efficient patient pathways and ensuring the most effective use of our clinical resources. The operational team have always been very responsive and flexible to our needs, and all the clinicians who delivered the referral triage provided excellent input, in some cases going above and beyond the ask and offering suggestions as to how we could improve our patient pathways to reduce the time to diagnosis and treatment. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Consultant Connect in the coming months to support our work to reduce the time our patients are waiting for their initial consultation or diagnosis.”

“As an ICB we have worked closely with Consultant Connect and our Provider Organisations for referral validation and triage. Consultant Connect are a responsive and professional organisation. They have gone out of their way to provide timely support and services to set this project up.

They always have been flexible to our needs working around our systems and processes to help deliver our projects. Their team of staff are friendly and knowledgeable and always engage to provide the best service possible.

They deliver a service in the background that has assisted us to improve the delivery of our services and ultimately more timely care to our patients.”

Consultant Testimonials

NCN Consultants triaging waiting lists comment:

“I’m pleased that this project has brought about a reduction in waiting times when NHS services across the country are under huge pressure. I hope that facilitating investigations in advance of clinic appointments in selected cases will result in further efficiency savings, by improving the new to follow up ratio and that this free clinic capacity can be directed towards patients who need more urgent clinical review. The standard of referrals from GPs has been high, as has the IT infrastructure, meaning decisions can often be made immediately, rather than requiring back and forth messages to obtain the necessary information.”

“The opportunities for the NHS are shorter waiting lists at the hospitals – what’s not to like about that! “

“A number of referrals were identified to be re-triaged into another department in the hospital, saving an unnecessary first outpatient appointment.”

“As a specialist in colorectal and general surgery, I think the referral triage project is an excellent idea. I was involved in the initial trial and I have seen referrals which clearly were inappropriate and caused delays in patient management.”

Hear from NHS consultants triaging waiting lists via the service

If you have any questions or would like more information, call us on 01865 261467 or email

- Consultant Connect

Contact us

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

- Consultant Connect

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.

- Consultant Connect

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.