Who are anaesthetists?

Anaesthetists are all doctors who have completed a full medical training. They then choose to complete further training over 9 years to become fully trained consultant anaesthetists. Anaesthetists are the largest group of hospital based doctors. There is a wide range of sub-specialties which make up the overall specialty of anaesthesia.

How are anaesthetists trained?

Medical students study for 5 years  in both a university and a hospital. They then graduate as doctors with the basic medical degree. All doctors then have  a further two years of Foundation Stage training in a range of different specialities. This gives a wide basic training and allows them to find out the areas of work they are interested in.  Doctors who wish to train in anaesthesia apply to go on a training programme which lasts seven more years to become a consultant.

At first a new anaesthetist works with a Consultant anaesthetist by their side all the time. As the trainee passes competency assessments and gains experience, the level of supervision is very gradually reduced. Anaesthetists need to complete  all the required  standards set by the Royal College of Anaesthetists. They also need to pass  a difficult two-part exam called the Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (FRCA). Trainees need to pass these  before they can continue with the last stage of their  training.

The standards of training in the UK are very high. The Royal College of Anaesthetists has a duty to set and monitor standards of training. Hospitals which do not provide a high enough level of training to these standards will no longer be allowed to train anaesthetists.

What are the different titles on name badges?

In all hospitals anaesthetists have different titles depending on:

  • how senior they are
  • whether or not they are still in training.

They should wear a name badge and introduce themselves to you when you meet.

Anaesthetists in training (junior doctors)

FY1/FY2 – Foundation year 1 and 2
You will usually see these doctors looking after patients on the ward. In some hospitals FY1 and 2 doctors have introductory training in anaesthesia or intensive care.

CT1/2 – Core training year 1 and 2
These are the early basic training years in anaesthetics.

ST 3/4/5/6/7 – Specialty training years 3-7 of training
The number is the training year which they are in. This training covers all the specialist training these doctors need to become consultants.

Senior anaesthetists

Senior anaesthetists are no longer in training and usually work on their own or supervise a trainee.

Consultant Anaesthetist
A consultant has completed all the training requirements in anaesthesia to allow them to be on the GMC specialist register. They work without any senior supervision but must all continue education in anaesthesia each year. They usually specialise in a particular area of anaesthesia. Some may lead teams in different areas of the hospital such as Intensive care and pain medicine.

SAS doctor
This group of anaesthetists have different levels of experience and may be called either Staff Grade, Fellow, Associate Specialist, Specialty Doctor. In some trusts they may be called a different title.

SAS doctors have at least two years specialist training in anaesthesia but usually far longer. 5% have completed all the training and are on the specialist register. Most also have years of experience working as an anaesthetist.

For various reasons they have all made a choice not to complete all the higher specialty areas of training and research in order to become a consultant. Depending on their skills and experience these doctors may work alone but can ask for advice or assistance if required.

Other titles you may see

Locum anaesthetist
These can be anaesthetists of any grade that are temporarily working to cover a position.

Physicians’ Assistants (Anaesthesia)
They are trained healthcare professionals who are qualified to give anaesthetics under the supervision of a consultant anaesthetist. This role is new to the UK, but is more common in northern Europe and the United States. The PA(A) will be a health professional or a university graduate who has a specific training programme which leads to a Postgraduate Diploma in Anaesthetic Practice.

Professor/Lecturer/Reader
These are all anaesthetists who work with the University in research as well as in clinical anaesthesia.

How do we know that anaesthetists are working to high standards?

All grades of anaesthetists are appraised each year to best ensure they meet the standards of practice required in the UK. They also use this appraisal to decide what extra courses or training  they need to attend to keep them up to date in all the areas that they work in or to learn new skills. This process is overseen by the General Medical Council.

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