Improving referrals in Speech Therapy

Adult Speech and Language Therapy in Portsmouth used an audit in 2016 to identify that referrals were taking an average of 8 days to be received and triaged. Clinicians carry out triage to work out how urgently the person should be seen. The audit also showed that the quality of referrals was poor. This meant that nearly 60% of referrals required a telephone call to clarify details such as health history. At this time, 65% of referrals were being sent by paper and post.

After the first audit, Speech and Language Therapy changed their referral form to include sections that had to be completed. They also promoted the use of the Single Point of Access telephone line with GPs and nursing homes. Then the Single Point of Access team started adding referral details onto the patient electronic records system on the day they were received.

When the audit was repeated in 2017, the time taken to receive and triage referrals had reduced to 3 days. This was mostly related to an increase in the use of Single Point of Access for nearly 60% of all referrals. Following the change in the referral form, the quality of referrals also improved leading to a drop in information chasing telephone calls to only 10% of referrals.

This audit highlighted the importance of controlling the quality of referrals. Being able to prioritise referrals accurately means that services are used fairly and the risk to patients is minimised.