Background A trial of a new model of triage (Specific and Timely Appointments for Triage: STAT) at a community rehabilitation program (CRP) reduced the mean time to first appointment from 17.5 to 10.0 days. However, quantitative findings reveal little about the impact of the system on those who used it. We aimed to explore the experiences of patients and clinicians following the introduction of STAT. Method Qualitative study within a convergent mixed-methods design applied to a controlled before and after trial at a CRP. Semi-structured interviews (n = 32) were conducted with clinicians who experienced the change to STAT, patients admitted to the CRP using STAT and patients who attended rehabilitation via a triaged wait list at another site. Results Clinicians reported shorter waiting times, more flexibility and increased efficiency with STAT, and noted the importance of effective change management. Patients reported a more efficient and consistent pathway to rehabilitation with STAT. Waiting had negative consequences for some patients at the triaged wait list site. Conclusions The qualitative data provide context to the quantitative results by showing that the changes that reduced waiting times were also well accepted and perceived to be beneficial by both patients and clinicians. What is known about the topic? Triage systems are widely used but can contribute to inefficiencies in health care. An alternative method of triage (STAT) using early allocation to face-to-face appointments has been shown to reduce waiting times in a community rehabilitation service. What does this paper add? This paper explains and adds important context to the quantitative findings by exploring the perceptions of the staff and patients who experienced both the existing and alternative models of triage. What are the implications for practitioners? The STAT model was well received by staff and patients, suggesting that this simple intervention was a feasible and effective method of reducing waiting times for community rehabilitation, and may be applicable to other services that share similar features.