Trauma systems have been successful in saving lives and preventing disability. Making sure that the right patient gets the right treatment in the shortest possible time is integral to this success. Most trauma systems have not fully developed trauma triage to optimize outcomes. For trauma triage to be effective, there must be a well-developed pre-hospital system with an efficient dispatch system and adequately resourced ambulance system. Hospitals must have clear designations of the level of service provided and agreed protocols for reception of patients. The response within the hospital must be targeted to ensure the sickest patients get an immediate response. To enable the most appropriate response to trauma patients across the system, a well-developed monitoring programme must be in place to ensure constant refinement of the clinical response. This article gives a brief overview of the current approach to triaging trauma from time of dispatch to definitive treatment. © 2014 The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Journal of Anaesthesia. All rights reserved.