The Cost of a Referral

Published: 6th March 2023
Using Consultant Connect helps reduce the number of unnecessary hospital visits and ensures patients get the right care, the first time.
Who Pays For Advice & Guidance? - Consultant Connect

Looking at the cost of healthcare, it is often presumed that this is the monetary value of a face-to-face appointment. But this does not take into account the secondary costs that arise as a result, such as the communication in triggering the referral and arranging the appointment or the inconvenience and costs for patients travelling to the consultation.

An article published by The King’s Fund in 2022 calculated the average costs of various treatments within the NHS:

  • Attending A&E: £77 – £359
  • Ambulance conveyance: £206 – £292
  • Operation: £2,817 – £9,212
  • GP consultation: £39.23

Despite the vast gap in the above costs, this is assuming that the patient:

a.) needs the referral,

b.) is on the correct pathway, and

c.) is being referred at the appropriate point in their treatment.

This is important because when a patient is seen in the right place, at the right time, by the right clinician, it improves patient experience, reduces unwarranted pressure on services and saves time and money.

The number of referrals for elective care is increasing at a rate of 3.2% a year, with the number of patients referred for outpatient appointments increasing by 42% between 2009 and 2019. If the amount of patients unnecessarily referred for elective care appointments in Secondary Care is reduced, patients who need to be seen urgently can be prioritised.

How can Consultant Connect help?

Our services are designed to help connect healthcare professionals and patients across the NHS, reducing unnecessary hospital visits and ensuring patients get the right care, the first time via:

  • Enhanced Advice & Guidance – Connecting with specialist clinicians via Telephone or Photo Messaging allows practitioners to discuss a management plan or referral for patients. Over 1 million calls have been placed by clinicians via our service, with data from the last 7 years showing that 67% of calls to elective care specialties avoid an unnecessary hospital visit, and 36% of calls from ambulance staff avoid unnecessary patient conveyances.


  • Referral Triage and Validation – Using the expertise of NHS consultants on our National Consultant Network to work through backlogs or new referrals as they come in results in a prioritised waiting list. Over 35,000 referrals have been triaged across 17 specialties, with data showing that, on average, one in four patients don’t need to be on the waiting list in the first place and are returned to Primary Care with a treatment plan.


  • Patient-Initiated Follow-Up (PIFU) and Patient Connect – Our PIFU service enables patients to initiate virtual consultations with a specialist clinician. This reduces unnecessary hospital visits and patient waiting times and allows clinical teams to see patients quicker. Patient Connect allows clinicians to easily set up and deliver telephone consultations from anywhere, saving face-to-face appointments for patients who need them. One of our Trust partners is using both PIFU and Patient Connect to support patients with rheumatological needs. Patients initiate IG-secure virtual consultations for Rheumatology advice and/or prescription and blood queries via Consultant Connect’s PIFU service, and specialists place calls back to the patients using Patient Connect. To date, over 16,000 patient calls have been placed via the service, with specialist nurses and consultants using Patient Connect to place calls back to patients for virtual consultations. Overall, 60% of calls are resolved first time, avoiding the need for the patient to attend hospital.


But don’t take our word for it; see how Consultant Connect is working for real clinicians in NHS areas all across the UK by reading our case studies.

Want to find out how Consultant Connect services can help your NHS area? Fill in the form below for a call-back or email

Callback request - The cost of a referral

- 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.