Anaesthetists, the largest group of hospital-based specialists, are doctors who use drugs and gases to stop patients feeling pain or distress before, during and after operations or other medical procedures.

Nature of the work

Their activities include surgery, emergency care, intensive care, pain management and obstetric analgesia (pain relief in pregnancy and labour).

Anaesthetists work in many different areas of the hospital. Basic anaesthetic skills are learned in the first few years of training, but after that many anaesthetists develop a particular expertise. Anaesthetists care for patients by choosing the appropriate anaesthetics, monitoring their wellbeing during operations and painful procedures, supervising their recovery and providing further pain relief if needed. On average, nearly half their time is spent in the operating theatre but they also work in areas such as:

Anaesthetists offer four stages of patient care:

The modern specialty of anaesthia has come a long way since its earliest days. Every patient has a needle inserted in their vein, and in more complicated cases, arterial or central venous lines are inserted. Airway management is also important. This may involve face masks, laryngeal mask airways, endotracheal intubations or tracheostomies. Common regional anaesthetic techniques include epidural and spinal blocks. Nerve and plexus blocks are also frequently performed.

Common procedures/interventions

The word 'anaesthesia' means 'loss of sensation'. Common procedures include:


The CCT sub-specialty is:

As their career progresses, many anaesthetists develop an interest in a clinical or research sub-specialty such as intensive care medicine or resuscitation and trauma.

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