Chapter 7: Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services in the Non-theatre Environment 2023
There are increasing numbers of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures performed outside the main theatre environment, in both elective and emergency situations. These procedures may require anaesthetic involvement through haemodynamic monitoring during the procedure, sedation, regional anaesthesia or general anaesthesia. The challenge for anaesthesia is to develop a framework that supports and regulates the safe delivery of care.
Commercial and NHS healthcare providers are expanding non-theatre environments to deliver surgical and diagnostic procedures. This framework guidance should be applied to all non-theatre services that require anaesthetic interventions.
The complexity and challenges of providing anaesthesia care in the non-theatre environment should be acknowledged through appropriate regulation of healthcare providers and training and certification of anaesthesia providers. All clinical personnel assisting with anaesthesia should be certified resuscitation providers.
Facilities delivering anaesthesia and sedation by anaesthetic providers should develop a culture of safety that reflects Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthetic Services (GPAS) guidelines. Patients expect uniformly high standards of service provision wherever the service is provided and whoever is the provider.
The development of deep sedation techniques and general anaesthesia with total intravenous anaesthesia (TIVA)/target-controlled infusion techniques may remove the requirement for complex gas delivery systems and anaesthetic machines. The safe delivery of anaesthesia through preoperative assessment, case selection, anaesthesia delivery, recovery and postoperative care should not be compromised because of cost pressures.
The physical environment can be challenging for the safe provision of anaesthesia when compared with the main theatre environment. The anaesthesia providers should develop safe practice guidelines that consider the assessment, induction, recovery and discharge of patients. In addition, procedure-specific risks such as radiation exposure and infection control should be considered. Compliance with the surgical safety checklist is obligatory.1 Complication management should be written into patient pathways with consideration of access to other medical, surgical, and critical care services.
1. Staffing requirements
A clinical lead(s) (see Glossary) for anaesthesia in the non-theatre environment should be appointed with adequate time provided within their job plan to develop the service, train staff, and ensure that safety standards are upheld.2,5,6 The anaesthesia clinical lead for the non-theatre environment should create local consensus guidelines for the staffing of each non-theatre area where anaesthesia is delivered.
An escalation policy should be in place and should be understood by all medical, healthcare professional and managerial staff. This should include the names and method of contact, which should be prominently displayed in appropriate areas. Internal hospital telephone switchboards should have ready access to rotas and methods of contacts.7
The non-theatre environment involves multiple clinical teams working together. There should be an anaesthesia clinical lead to coordinate, collaborate, and communicate between clinical teams and to offer effective, explicit leadership.5
The requirements for non-theatre anaesthesia services out of hours should be locally agreed and sufficient staffing should be in place to deliver all aspects of the emergency workload without compromising patient safety.12
If a radiology department provides an emergency interventional service for which anaesthesia services may be required, plans for staffing this anaesthetic service should be made, particularly outside normal working hours. Clear referral pathways for anaesthetic support for interventional radiology should be provided for all hours the service is offered.13,14,15,16
Anaesthesia for non-theatre environment should be delivered by a competent individual with appropriate supervision; the level of supervision should reflect the severity of the case and the seniority of the individual in accordance with the RCoA's Guidance on Supervision Arrangements for Anaesthetists.17
Anaesthetists in training should be given the appropriate level of responsibility according to their competence and level of training, to gain the experience of non-theatre environment and to enable them to function as a consultant later in their career. Anaesthetists in training must be appropriately supervised at all times; rotas and staffing arrangements should be in place to facilitate this training.18
2. Facilities, equipment, medication and services
Access to lifts for easy trolley transfer should be available.
Procedure rooms should be large enough to accommodate equipment and personnel, with enough space to move about safely and to enable easy access to the patient at all times.19
Environments in which patients receive anaesthesia or sedation should have full facilities for resuscitation available, including a defibrillator, suction, oxygen, airway devices, an escalating plan of airway intervention equipment, including equipment required to manage a difficult airway and a means of providing ventilation.20
The anaesthetist should consider all environmental factors when planning administration of anaesthesia or sedation.21
When rooms are darkened, hindering direct observation of the patient, an alternative light source should be available to facilitate patient observation and documentation.21
Transfer of a patient from the procedure room to other areas within the institution should be possible to arrange if necessary.
A recovery area or equivalent should be available for each patient at the end of the procedure.19
A telephone and facilities to allow access to online information, such as electronic patient records, local guidelines and clinical decision aids, should be available.21
Equipment for the minimum standards of monitoring should be available at all sites where patients receive anaesthesia or sedation.22 For patients receiving conscious sedation, this should include pulse oximetry.
The anaesthetist should ensure that an adequate supply of oxygen is available before starting any procedure. Many of the sites where anaesthesia is provided outside the main operating theatres do not have piped oxygen; if anaesthesia is provided frequently in such a location, the use of the location should be reviewed, or piped oxygen provided. The organisational culture should enable anaesthetists to raise concerns if safety and monitoring standards are compromised.21
Where piped oxygen is used, back-up cylinders should always be available and should be appropriately stored.
All anaesthetic equipment should be standardised (where possible) in all areas providing anaesthetic services, including equipment for resuscitation and life support with the exception of any equipment that needs to be magnetic-resonance (MR) safe. All anaesthetic equipment should be subjected to a standardised programme of maintenance.21
All staff should be provided with opportunities to familiarise themselves with all equipment by attending formal training sessions.21 Training sessions should be documented accordingly.
All anaesthetic equipment should be checked prior to use in accordance with the Association of Anaesthetists published guidelines.25 Anaesthetic machine checks should be recorded in a logbook and on the anaesthetic chart.
All procedures should be compliant with National Safety Standards for Invasive Procedures (NatSSIPs) and the Safe Surgery Checklist.26,27 An appropriate ‘pre-list check’ of the anaesthesia systems, facilities, equipment, supplies and resuscitation equipment should be performed prior to the start of each list.21
Appropriate equipment should be available to monitor a patient’s temperature, to minimise heat loss and to provide active patient warming.24
All patient trolleys should be capable of being tipped into the head-down position and should be easily transferrable to the rest of the hospital.24 The exception to this is the MR safe trolleys.
A standardised list of anaesthesia medications should be available wherever anaesthesia or sedation is undertaken. A full range of emergency medications, including specific reversal agents such as naloxone, sugammadex and flumazenil, should be available.28
Drug labels should be used to identify syringes and infusions that contain medications.24,35 A robust system of communication between the anaesthetists, nursing staff and proceduralists, including confirmation of medications, should be in place to avoid miscommunication and miscalculation errors.28
Local guidelines should consider mitigating the risk of drug overdose for drugs that are available in different strengths. Stocking medications in only one strength (e.g., ketamine and midazolam) can decrease the incidence of medication errors.
Prefilled syringes supplied by the pharmacy should be considered, especially in areas where anaesthesia is delivered in an emergency.36
Patients should be appropriately monitored by trained staff during their recovery from anaesthesia or sedation.24
The care of the patient should remain the responsibility of the anaesthetist up to discharge for ambulatory procedures or ward transfer for inpatient procedures.
3. Areas of special requirement
Children presenting for anaesthesia outside the operating room may present challenges relating to the procedure, the environment, or physical, physiological and psychological challenges. Children often require repeat treatments or investigations. Minor procedures and diagnostic tests may be performed with sedation techniques. In addition, anaesthesia may be required for more invasive procedures in children.37,38
Detailed recommendations for children’s services are comprehensively described in GPAS Chapter 10: Guidelines for the Provision of Paediatric Services.39
Children should always be managed in accordance with RCoA and Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland recommendations.
Each facility should develop written policies, designating the types of paediatric operative diagnostic and therapeutic procedures requiring anaesthesia.
The paediatric anaesthetist should consider the patient’s age and physical capacity, the complexity of the procedure and the status of the surgical facility before administering anaesthesia. Children with learning and/or communication difficulties requiring sedation or anaesthesia should be cared for as per the recommendations of GPAS Chapter 10: Guidelines for the Provision of Paediatric Services.39
Irrespective of the site of care delivery (theatre or non-theatre), children should receive the same standard of anaesthetic care or sedation as applied to procedures performed in theatre.40
Equipment available in remote sites should replicate equipment available in the main paediatric facility.
Guidance for paediatric sedation should be developed for the local context by a multidisciplinary team.
Patients with additional needs, including learning disabilities and neurodiversity
Where necessary, premedication or sedation should be considered for patients with additional needs, including those with extreme anxiety.43
Where possible, reasonable adjustments to processes and environments should be made to reduce anxiety and avoid the need for elaborate premedication of patients. Such adjustments may include admission directly to the procedure room, wearing outdoor clothes, and/or not performing observations.43,44
All patients with complex needs should have a suitable preoperative assessment and multidisciplinary planning and an anaesthetist should be involved in the best-interest discussions regarding individual risk.43,45 Learning disability liaison teams or equivalent should be involved early in care planning.
Policies should be in place for in-car or entrance-hall sedation for patients who will leave home but who have difficulties entering the hospital environment.45
Any preprocedure sedation that occurs outside a normal clinical environment should have all the anaesthetic equipment that is required for monitoring and airway support plus a trained assistant available. There should be formal training in the pathways used.
Bespoke plans should be clearly communicated and documented with contingencies and escalation.
If a patient with additional needs requires multiple procedures to be conducted during a single anaesthetic, appropriate logistical planning should be considered, including arrangements for safe transfer to other non-theatre sites where applicable.
Safe recovery of patients with learning disabilities should be planned in advance. Patients should ideally be recovered in an area with lower levels of noise and lighting and should have a familiar presence, such as their carer, present.43
The emergency department
Patients requiring anaesthesia in the ED are frequently critically ill or injured. Their physiological derangement and sensitivity to anaesthetic agents, coupled with the potential for increased difficulty in tracheal intubation, requires the presence of an anaesthetist competent to manage these challenges in a timely and effective manner.47
The safe management of unstable patients depends on close liaison between emergency physicians, anaesthetists and intensivists.50,51 Local collaboration and leadership through committee structure or working groups should ensure the following:
- clear guidelines are easily accessible to all staff regarding fixed contact points for anaesthetic support, channels of escalation, equipment availability, medication use and periprocedural care.52 Major trauma and neuroscience centres should consider producing generic guidance on specific clinical presentations to support rotating clinicians with limited experience
- all anaesthetic staff providing support to the ED within the context of their job plan should be offered a tour of the ED as part of their induction
- ED support staff should be regularly trained to assist with advanced airway interventions such as tracheal intubation
- advanced airway interventions should be clearly recorded in patient notes in a structured format that facilitates review, debrief and continuous quality improvement work
- audit and discussion of complications should be undertaken regularly by the multidisciplinary team.
The use of an emergency induction checklist is recommended. Airway and resuscitation equipment should be organised as per the equipment governance recommendations of the collaborative framework of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.54
Transfer of patients within the hospital to the intensive care unit, radiology department or the operating theatre is not without risk and will require the use of a tipping transfer trolley, oxygen cylinders, suction, a transport ventilator, infusion pumps, monitor with adequate battery life, and a portable defibrillator, if appropriate. Local guidelines, together with use of a formal intrahospital transfer form, should be considered to mitigate procedure-specific issues.
Procedural sedation and analgesia in the ED should follow the recommendations from the RCoA and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.36 Medications and medication safety systems in the ED should align with the recommendations of the collaborative framework of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.54
The radiology department
Patients requiring general anaesthesia in the radiology department are of all ages and comorbid conditions, requiring everything from planned elective care to emergency care for life-threatening conditions. Increasingly complex, lengthy procedures are performed in the radiology department at all times, and this represents a more challenging environment in which to provide anaesthesia compared with an operating theatre.5
Exposure to ionising radiation should be kept to a minimum using screens and personal protective equipment such as lead gowns and thyroid shields. Remote secondary monitors in screened viewing areas should be provided and staff should remain as distant from the imaging source as possible if they remain in the x-ray environment.56,57
Anaesthetists who work regularly within the radiology department should be issued with personal dosimeters by their employer to monitor their radiation exposure and to ensure that levels remain within statutory dose limits.58
The anaesthetist accompanying transferred patients to the radiology department should be suitably skilled and experienced to manage all eventualities in an isolated environment and should be accompanied by a dedicated trained assistant.7
As not all radiology tables tilt into a head-down position, a tipping trolley should be available for patients who require general anaesthesia.
Recommendations on the provision of mechanical thrombectomy services can be found in Chapter 14: Guidelines for the Provision of Neuroanaesthesia Services.
The provision of anaesthesia services should be considered when designing interventional radiology services and there should be agreement about the level of provision and protocols to request anaesthetic support for both elective and emergency cases.
Procedure-specific agents, such as those required to manipulate coagulation, intracranial pressure or arterial blood pressure, should be available.60
Interventional vascular radiology may involve treating unstable patients with severe haemorrhage. Such patients may include those with significant gastrointestinal bleeding or patients with postpartum haemorrhage.61,62,63 Equipment to deal with these situations should be immediately available. This includes a variety of intravascular catheters, rapid infusion devices, blood and fluid warming devices, and patient warming devices.
The local protocol for major haemorrhage should be available and should be rehearsed periodically as a team by formal simulation or other training sessions.
Magnetic resonance imaging
There should be locally agreed protocols and pathways for the provision of anaesthetic services in MRI both in and out of hours.
Remote monitoring of the patient with a secondary screen in the control room should be available to allow the anaesthetic team to monitor the patient from outside of the magnetic field.
Particular consideration should be given to the problems of using infusion pumps. All non-essential pumps and equipment should be removed from the patient before entering the magnetic field. MR safe or conditional infusion pumps or the use of a protective MR capsule for standard pumps should be available wherever anaesthesia is provided regularly. Infusions with extra-long giving sets can be used when MRI-specific pumps are not available.
All staff involved with transferring a patient to the MRI scanner should understand the unique problems caused by monitoring and anaesthetic equipment in this environment. It is not acceptable for inexperienced staff unfamiliar with the MR environment to escort or manage a patient in this environment, particularly out of hours.64,65,67
The patient and all staff should have an MRI safety and exclusion questionnaire completed before entering the magnetic field.
In the event of an adverse incident in the MRI scanning room, the patient should be removed from the scanning room without delay and immediate access to an anaesthetic preparation room or resuscitation area is required.5
Anaesthesia for electroconvulsive therapy
Anaesthesia for ECT is frequently performed in remote locations. Ideally, a consultant or an autonomously practising anaesthetist (see Glossary) should provide general anaesthesia. Appropriately trained recovery and operating department staff should be provided, and the guidance provided for anaesthetic provision in remote sites should be followed.68
The ECT clinic should adhere to the ECT Accreditation Service (ECTAS) or Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN) standards for administration of ECT and have been assessed and accredited by ECTAS or SEAN.68
There should be a clinical lead (see Glossary) for ECT who is responsible for provision of the service in each anaesthetic department. The named consultant should be responsible for determining the optimal location for provision of anaesthesia for patients of American Society of Anesthesiologists classification III or above. Contingency plans for transfer to an acute care facility should also be in place.68,69
The ECT clinical lead should streamline the preassessment and consent processes for all ECT patients by setting up a collaborative system with ECT clinics and experienced anaesthetists. The mental capacity issues that affect informed consent should be acknowledged.
Standards specific to ECT clinics should be available, including a minimum of four rooms: a waiting room, treatment room, recovery area and post-ECT waiting area.68 The clinic should have a reliable source of oxygen supplied either by pipeline or cylinder with a reserve supply immediately available.
Recommendations for standards of monitoring during anaesthesia and recovery are stipulated by the Association of Anaesthetists and should be adhered to for all patients undergoing ECT.22
Anaesthesia for direct current cardioversion
The disturbance of physiological rhythm, the reduction in cardiac performance and the risk of embolic phenomena all place patients requiring DC cardioversion at risk of serious complications when undergoing both anaesthesia and DC cardioversion.2
Detailed recommendations for cardiac procedures can be found in Guidance on the Provision of Anaesthesia Services for Cardiac Procedures.
External pacing equipment should be immediately available before beginning DC cardioversion.2
Facilities to check recent serum electrolytes, in particular potassium and preferably magnesium, as well as the patient’s anticoagulation status and a recent ECG should be available before beginning a DC cardioversion. A preprocedural echocardiogram is likely to provide useful information such as the presence of thrombus within the cardiac chambers.71
The anaesthetist should not be responsible for performing the cardioversion; an appropriately trained physician, cardiologist or supervised nurse specialist is responsible for this role.50
Anaesthesia for radiotherapy
Anaesthesia may be required for radiotherapy, to facilitate patient positioning and to alleviate pain. Owing to the unique nature of the procedures involved in radiotherapy, the remoteness of the location and the lack of direct access to the patient, only appropriately experienced anaesthetists familiar with the therapy should embark on anaesthesia for these patients.72
Anaesthetists should be familiar with the specific needs of patients with cancer, including the following:
- the adverse effects of high concentrations of oxygen in the presence of some antineoplastic agents, for example bleomycin, and should adjust their technique accordingly.[i],[ii] Recent evidence confirms the association between unnecessarily high intraoperative fraction of inspired oxygen and increased risk of major respiratory complications and 30-day mortality. Inspired oxygen levels may require adjustment to maintain an acceptable level of tissue oxygenation74
- the interference of nitrous oxide with vitamin B12 and folate metabolism.75
Patients with tumours of the lower body may be amenable to regional anaesthesia. Equipment and facilities to instigate, monitor and manage regional blockade should be available.73
General anaesthesia and sedation for dental procedures
General anaesthesia for dentistry should be administered only by anaesthetists in a hospital setting as defined by the Department of Health report reviewing general anaesthesia and conscious sedation in primary dental care.76
Patients undergoing sedation or general anaesthesia by an anaesthetist should have appropriate preoperative assessment with appropriate risk stratification.
Standards of service provided to patients receiving endoscopic procedures supported by anaesthetic staff in the non-theatre environment should be comparable to other anaesthetic services.
Anaesthetic staff providing care in the endoscopy suite should be familiar with the facility, equipment and techniques.
Preoperative assessment of elective patients receiving anaesthesia or sedation from anaesthetic personnel should be of a comparable standard to other anaesthesia services.
The risks of serious adverse events during emergency endoscopy are elevated when compared with elective procedures. Local protocols should include specific guidelines for emergency endoscopy and the involvement of the anaesthetic team.
A patient-centred safety checklist should be used for patients receiving endoscopy under sedation.77
Monitoring of patients receiving anaesthesia or sedation for endoscopy provided by anaesthetic personnel should be comparable to other anaesthesia services.
High-flow nasal oxygen therapy should be available for anaesthesia-delivered sedation or general anaesthesia for endoscopic procedures.
The post-anaesthetic recovery facilities when provided for patients following anaesthesia delivered sedation or anaesthesia should be comparable to those provided in theatre environments. The provision of a handover checklist can improve the transfer of care in the recovery setting conveying pertinent clinical and procedural information.
Critical incidents should be reviewed at regular intervals and should be analysed for trends and learning for the procedural team and wider hospital. This can involve a review of all hospital-related procedural sedation critical events.
4. Organisation and administration
Patient safety is, as always, of paramount importance. Particular attention should be paid to teamwork, communication, the use of checklists and procedure brief when working in less familiar environments. At the team briefing, an explicit plan should be agreed for requesting help if required, recognising the risk of, and preparing adequately for, high blood loss, and life-threatening loss of the airway or respiratory function.83
Many patients undergoing elective procedures outside the operating theatre can be managed as day cases and should be assessed accordingly in conjunction with local guidelines. All patients should undergo an appropriate risk assessment and level of preoperative assessment in line with the GPAS recommendations in Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services for the Perioperative Care of Elective and Urgent Care Patients.24,84
Hospitals should have a system for multidisciplinary involvement in reporting and regular audit of critical incidents and near misses. A risk register should be maintained for all remote locations in the hospital.
Environmental hazards such as radiation exposure, MR fields and lack of a scavenging system should be considered by staff before the start of each list. Volatile agent scavenging canisters, air-oxygen mixtures and avoidance of nitrous oxide can mitigate environmental risks. Consider TIVA where adequate scavenging cannot be achieved. Personnel who are pregnant may be particularly at risk in these environments and should follow local occupational health policy.85
In remote offsite locations, such as psychiatric hospitals where anaesthesia is provided for ECT, advanced plans should be made to manage patient transfer if required. If there is any concern about the safety of the procedure being undertaken by any staff members at a remote location (e.g. ECT in a psychiatric hospital), arrangements should be made to perform the procedure in an operating theatre environment.
Documentation to the standard used in the operating theatre should be kept for all patients and this should include the grade and specialty of the doctor performing and supervising the anaesthetic, together with the name of the supervising consultant designated to provide direct or indirect advice.24 Access to the electronic patient record and medical notes should be available at all remote sites.
The department of anaesthesia should be involved in the design and planning of any service requiring the provision of anaesthesia or deep sedation. A regular review of the remote location performance, critical incidents and further improvements should be held.86
Patients meeting discharge criteria following anaesthesia or sedation should be discharged into the care of a responsible third party. Verbal and written instructions for post-procedural care should be provided if a procedure has been performed outlined in Chapter 6: Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services for Day Surgery.87
The RCoA recognises the definitions of minimal, moderate and deep sedation as outlined in the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges guidance on safe sedation.2,3 Deep sedation equates to general anaesthesia and the recommendations outlined in Chapter 2: Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services for the Perioperative Care of Elective and Urgent Care Patients should be followed.
The RCoA does not provide recommendations for sedation provided by non-anaesthetists and they are encouraged to follow the guidance of their own Colleges and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.2,3,24
All institutions where sedation is practised should have a sedation committee. This committee should include key clinical teams using procedural sedation and there should be a nominated clinical lead for sedation. In most institutions, the sedation committee should include an anaesthetist, at least in an advisory capacity.
Each facility should develop written policies, designating the types of operative, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures requiring anaesthesia or sedation.
Guidelines for the management of rare emergencies should be prominently displayed at all sites where sedation is administered.
Mis-selection of high-strength midazolam during conscious sedation is defined as a ‘never event’ by the Department of Health.89 Hospitals should report these incidents and any other incidents involving over-sedation to the National Reporting and Learning System.
All patients undergoing procedural sedation should have oxygen saturation monitoring from the administration of sedation to discharge from recovery. Supplemental oxygen should be available and used, as necessary.54
Pulse oximetry, ECG, automated non-invasive blood pressure monitoring and wherever there is loss of verbal contact, continuous waveform capnography, should be considered and continued into the recovery period.22
As a result of the continuum of depth of anaesthesia, individuals administering moderate sedation should be able to rescue patients who enter deep sedation. Those administering deep sedation should be adequately trained to rescue patients who enter a state of general anaesthesia. This requires skilled anaesthetic assistance and equipment and involves the potential for airway intervention and support of both ventilation and cardiovascular function.90
Sedation practitioners should maintain a logbook of cases performed and adverse incidents reported.
5. Financial considerations
Part of the methodology used in this Chapter in making recommendations is a consideration of the financial impact for each of the recommendations. Very few of the literature sources from which these recommendations have been drawn have included financial analysis.
The vast majority of the recommendations are not new recommendations but they are a synthesis of existing recommendations. The current compliance rates with many of the recommendations are unknown, so it is not possible to calculate the financial impact of the recommendations in this Chapter being widely accepted into future practice. It is impossible to make an overall assessment of the financial impact of these recommendations with the currently available information.
6. Research, audit and quality improvement
Non-theatre anaesthetic practice should adhere to the same standards of safety, audit and quality improvement as operating room practice, especially as morbidity and mortality rates can be higher in the non-theatre environment.19 Clinical governance procedures should follow the guidelines of Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services: The Good Department.
There should be local multidisciplinary audit programmes analysing systems, outcomes and patient experience relating to anaesthesia and sedation in the non-theatre environment.
Regular feedback should be provided to anaesthetic staff and they should be encouraged to participate in quality improvement activities.
Anaesthesia departments should participate in relevant audit and research activities of national bodies such as the Health Services Research Centre and National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death.91
All episodes of anaesthesia in the non-theatre environment should be captured in a structured record within clinical notes.
Regular multidisciplinary team review should be encouraged, with appropriate service improvement initiatives and shared learning.
Contribution to airway registries, such as the Difficult Airway Society Database and Emergency Medicine Airway Registry, should be encouraged.
7. Implementation support
The Anaesthesia Clinical Services Accreditation (ACSA) scheme, run by the RCoA, aims to provide support for departments of anaesthesia to implement the recommendations contained in the GPAS chapters. The scheme provides a set of standards, which ask departments of anaesthesia to benchmark themselves against these standards using a self-assessment form available on the RCoA website. Every standard in ACSA is based on recommendation(s) contained in GPAS. The ACSA standards are reviewed annually and republished approximately four months after GPAS review and republication to ensure that they reflect current GPAS recommendations. ACSA standards include links to the relevant GPAS recommendations so that departments can refer to them while working through their gap analyses.
Departments of anaesthesia can subscribe to the ACSA process on payment of an appropriate fee. Once subscribed, they are provided with a ‘College guide’ (a member of the RCoA working group that oversees the process) or an experienced reviewer to assist them with identifying actions required to meet the standards. Departments must demonstrate adherence to all ‘priority one’ standards listed in the standards document to receive accreditation from the RCoA. This is confirmed during a visit to the department by a group of four ACSA reviewers (two clinical reviewers, a PatientsVoices@RCoA and an administrator), who submit a report back to the ACSA committee.
The ACSA committee has committed to building a ‘good practice library’, which will be used to collect and share documentation such as policies and checklists, as well as case studies of how departments have overcome barriers to implementation of the standards or have implemented the standards in innovative ways.
One of the outcomes of the ACSA process is to test the standards (and by doing so to test the GPAS recommendations) to ensure that they can be implemented by departments of anaesthesia and to consider any difficulties that may result from implementation. The ACSA committee has committed to measuring and reporting feedback of this type from departments engaging in the scheme back to the CDGs updating the guidance via the GPAS technical team.
8. Patient information
The Royal College of Anaesthetists has developed a range of Trusted Information Creator Kitemark-accredited patient information resources that can be accessed from the RCoA website, including information on sedation, resources for children and young people and accessible resources. Our main leaflets are now translated into more than 20 languages, including Welsh.
Patients with learning and other difficulties may need special assistance and consideration, with specific strategies put in place to aid communication. Further recommendations for patients with additional needs are found in section 3 of this document.
All patients (and relatives where appropriate and relevant) should be fully informed about the planned procedure and should be encouraged to be active participants in decisions about their care. Recommendations about the provision of information and consent processes outlined in Guidelines for the Provision of Anaesthesia Services for the Perioperative Care of Elective and Urgent Care Patients should be followed.24
In situations where rolling consent is used (e.g. radiotherapy treatment), appropriate documentation should be kept as part of the patient record, including dates for review of consent. This should be included in the trust’s policy on consent.
Information regarding planned procedures outside the operating theatre and the requirement for sedation or anaesthesia should be given to the patient in advance of their admission. Details on fasting times and medications to continue or omit should be included. The patient needs to be aware that they require a competent adult to escort them home after receiving sedation or alternatively require an inpatient hospital stay.2
Information given to patients should include what to expect in the anaesthetic room and the treatment room.92
Preoperative assessment and information should be given as per surgical procedures.44
Patients from non-English speaking groups may require interpreters. Hospitals should have arrangements in place to provide language support, including interpretation and translation (including sign language and Braille). This information should comply with the NHS England Accessible Information Standard.93
Hospitals should have local policies in place for the identification, support and safeguarding of vulnerable adults.97
Areas for future development
- A more detailed national audit of critical incidents associated with anaesthesia in the non-theatre environment should be considered.
- Paediatric surgical techniques and practices are evolving, and it is likely that the demand for out of theatre surgical procedures and radiological investigations will increase.
- The use of open MRI scanners for claustrophobic patients as an alternative to anaesthesia or sedation is available in some hospitals. Current evidence shows that the image quality is not yet comparable to that of enclosed MRI scanners. However, with further research and improvements this may become a consideration for the future.
Clinical lead – doctors undertaking lead roles should be autonomously practising doctors who have competence, experience and communication skills in the specialist area equivalent to consultant colleagues. They should usually have experience in teaching and education relevant to the role and they should participate in quality improvement and continued professional development activities. Individuals should be fully supported by their clinical director and should be provided with adequate time and resources to allow them to undertake the lead role effectively.
Autonomously practising anaesthetist – a consultant or a staff grade, associate specialist or specialty (SAS) doctor who can function autonomously to a level of defined competencies, as agreed within local clinical governance frameworks.
Deep sedation – describes a state where the patient cannot easily be roused but responds purposefully to repeated or painful stimulation. It may be accompanied by clinically significant ventilatory depression. The patient may require assistance maintaining a patent airway and positive pressure ventilation.
Immediately – unless otherwise defined, ‘immediately’ means within five minutes.
Minimal sedation – is a drug-induced state during which the patient responds normally to verbal commands. Cognitive function and physical coordination may be impaired but airway reflexes, ventilatory and cardiovascular functions are unaffected.
Magnetic-resonance compatible – equipment that is designated as MR compatible is MR safe, functions normally in the MR environment and does not interfere with the correct operation of the MRI equipment provided that instructions concerning its proper use are correctly followed.
Moderate sedation/mild sedation – a state where a purposeful response to verbal commands, either alone (conscious sedation) or accompanied by light tactile stimulation, is maintained.