Referral Triage and Validation | Impact and Benefits

Published: 1st February 2024
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 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), who work remotely as ‘virtual locums’ under the leadership of local clinical leads. 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 and rolls out at pace
  • 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 and 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 60,000 referral triaged/validated to date
  • Across 20 NHS Trusts 
  • In 17 NHS specialties
  • On average, 29% of referrals are returned to Primary Care with detailed advice


Project Examples:

Area 1 – Neurology Referrals:

  • >1,000 Neurology referrals triaged, detailed management plans and advice provided:
    • 58% of cases were safely removed from the waiting list, including 52% returned to Primary Care with a thorough and comprehensive management plan
    • 42% of cases were directed to the right place, the first time, including 24% accepted to general clinics and 14% accepted to specialist clinics

Area 2 – Dermatology Referrals:

  • >1,200 Dermatology referrals triaged, treatment plans advised and started immediately:
    • 27% of cases given treatment plans and suitable to be seen in Primary Care
    • 12% of cases upgraded from routine to urgent suspected cancer (USC)

Area 3 – Ophthalmology Referrals:

  • >1,700 Ophthalmology referrals triaged, patients navigated to more appropriate pathways and important upgrades captured:
    • 74% of cases accepted for a routine outpatient appointment
    • 11% of cases upgraded to urgent outpatient appointment
Commissioner Testimonials

NHS areas using our Referral Triage service comment:

‘I’m pleased with how smooth this was to set up, manage, communicate and progress. Having weekly meetings allowed us to keep track and provide feedback, which meant any issues were resolved straight away. The two consultants worked well within our Welsh guidance and followed local processes. Their advice and guidance back to the GPs was clear, professional and concise.’

‘One clear benefit of the work is in the management of clinical risk, as it’s capturing the upgraded patients to 2ww as all cases are now triaged. Where appropriate, the service has provided plans to the GPs to enable treatment to commence prior to attending their first appointment.’

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

They have always 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 engaged 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:

‘It was helpful to have a list of interventions not usually undertaken to allow triage and advice to GPs for these cases. Having photos was very valuable as it meant referrals for lesions requiring plastic surgery input could be redirected at an early stage and avoided duplicate appointments in both dermatology and plastic surgery.’

‘The IT support has been excellent, and the local team has been extremely communicative about pathways available. They’ve also responded very quickly to questions I asked about local guidelines for larger lesions, nurse-led acne clinics and hyperhidrosis, for example. It’s been really useful to see photos alongside the referrals, allowing for some of them to be upgraded to the Urgent Suspected Cancer pathway.’

One of the key benefits of the work is that I can advise on treatment options which can be implemented for an immediate impact on the patient’s disease management. Furthermore, the initial treatment for many of these patients actually turns out to be more definitive treatments, often removing the need for the patient to be seen in hospital at all. Patient lives are made better and safer.’

‘Photographs of lesions were looked at, and skin cancers were picked up, including melanomas and other skin cancers. These were upgraded, and many referrals were downgraded from urgent to routine as well, considered as a low priority to be seen freeing up valuable urgent appointment slots.’

Hear from NHS consultants triaging waiting lists via the service

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