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In 1994 we described a system whereby certain patients with back pain, on referral to an orthopaedic clinic, were seen first by a physiotherapist who referred on only the problem cases and those in need of surgery ('triage'). This practice has grown rapidly but there have been difficulties. To clarify these we have carried out a postal questionnaire. The results reveal similar practices in most centres but some discrepancies that are cause for concern. These relate to the workload of the physiotherapist, informed consent, supervision and accountability, the type of cases seen and not least the stresses on the physiotherapist. We believe the triage system has many benefits, but if it is not to be derailed the issues of concern must be addressed and the posts properly structured.