The benefits of Referral Triage

Published: 24th January 2023
Our Referral Triage and Clinical Validation service uses the expertise of NHS consultants to work through referral backlogs in bulk and back-up local clinicians to remove the clinical risk.
Referral Triage Impact: ENT and Urology referrals - Consultant Connect

Triaging referrals has become a fundamental step for many trusts and hospitals, especially since the volume of patients waiting for consultant-led elective care is at an all-time high.

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

Our Referral Triage and Clinical Validation service uses the expertise of NHS consultants from the National Consultant Network (NCN) to work through referral backlogs in bulk ​and back-up local clinicians to remove that clinical risk. Our NCN consultants span 17 specialties and triage and clinically validate referrals virtually whilst following local protocols and pathways.

Referrals are prioritised according to urgency, and patients receive treatment plans ahead of their appointment for a large majority of cases. This results in some patients no longer requiring their appointment and better informed first appointments as treatment has commenced/diagnostics have been performed.

Benefits to patients

  • Patients whose care is more urgent are identified and booked for a priority appointment with the local specialty team, receiving appointments for diagnostics beforehand where necessary.
  • Full management plans from a qualified NHS specialist are provided to the referring clinician for patients who are referred back to Primary Care.
  • Patients are seen or discharged in the most appropriate manner, reserving appointments for those who need them.
  • Patients are referred to the right service the first time so they can receive the correct treatment.

‘A huge factor of the Referral Triage project was determining whether a patient needed to be seen in Secondary Care or if they could be managed appropriately in Primary Care. If they did not require to be seen in Secondary Care, then the NCN consultant returns the referral back to the GP with clear advice on what they needed to do and how best to manage the patient outside an acute hospital setting.’

Louise Tuckett, Director of Strategy Planning and Performance at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

Benefits to Secondary Care

  • Our process identifies upgrades in addition to downgrades, initiating diagnostics ahead of elective care appointments where necessary so that local specialists can concentrate on patients who need to be seen urgently.
  • The NCN consultant(s) responsible for the triage work will be briefed in relation to what resources/local pathways and services are available in your area.
  • Our Referral Triage and Clinical Validation service has the capacity to assess any many referrals as needed, meaning high volumes can be managed quickly.
  • Our service comes with 100% outcome reporting, which is then communicated via eRS.

  The benefits of Referral Triage - Consultant Connect


Benefits to commissioners

  • Our Referral Triage model can be rolled out at pace and is flexible and adaptable to fit your local needs, meaning that the system can be increased, reduced or turned off completely within 72 hours, depending on local capacity.
  • Our NCN consultants can triage as many referrals as needed, helping your NHS area eliminate waits of over 65 weeks for elective care in line with the NHS priorities.
  • As projects can be designed to tackle backlogs, triage referrals as they come in or validate follow-up lists, patient outcomes are improved, and as a result, clinicians’ time is spent more efficiently, seeing the most urgent patients first.

‘Consultant Connect have supported Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust to cast a fresh eye over referrals coming into the service and better understand the source of referrals. Consultant Connect put things in place quickly and supported us every step of the way to ensure that we were happy with the process. Their contact with us has been much appreciated and very efficient; we have built a strong working relationship.’

Olivia Mosley, Service Lead for Community Paediatrics at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.


Benefits to Primary Care

  • Returned referrals are attached with appropriate and comprehensive advice and guidance for the patient’s management.
  • Patients deflected back to Primary Care mean that the referring GP can initiate a treatment plan in a timely manner.

‘Referrals that are deflected back to Primary Care are done so with sound, clinical professional advice and clear actions. The information is so in-depth that it is as though the patient is receiving a specialist opinion via their GP.’

Dr Adam Shakir, Consultant in ENT and Head and Neck Surgeon in Milton Keynes.


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