Almost all patients satisfied with their anaesthetic care

New research1 released by the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) has discovered that almost all UK patients were very satisfied with the care they received from anaesthetists.

The HSRC SNAP-1 study2, carried out by the RCoA funded Health Services Research Centre (HSRC) and the University College London Hospitals NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, was the largest ever study of this kind conducted in the UK3. Surveying 15,040 patients, it looked into adult patient satisfaction and experience after undergoing non-obstetric surgery requiring anaesthesia care, in order to identify targets for research and quality improvement.

99% of respondents stated that they would recommend their hospital’s anaesthesia service to their friends and family. Anxiety was most frequently cited as being the worst element of having an operation – reported by 34% of women and 26% of men and a third (35%) of patients reported discomfort after anaesthesia.

However, surprisingly the study found that women are up to three times more likely to experience discomfort than men. The study found that compared to men, women were also:

  • almost three times (2.77 times) more likely to experience severe cold or nausea and vomiting
  • almost twice as likely to experience severe pain (1.73 times) and drowsiness (1.7) after surgery requiring anaesthesia care
  • more likely to experience severe thirst (1.32 times) and sore throat (1.52 times).

Despite these gender-specific differences, women were no more likely to be dissatisfied with the hospital care they received. Both male and female patients surveyed were very satisfied with the care they received.

Dr Liam Brennan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said: “As highly trained doctors, skilled in perioperative management, anaesthetists make a profound difference to the quality of patient care. To know that the overwhelming majority of patients were very satisfied with the care they received from their anaesthetist is extremely gratifying. However, many postoperative symptoms can be extremely distressing for patients as well as potentially delaying discharge from hospital. At the heart of the College's perioperative research strategy is, measuring the quality of anaesthesia care in terms of the patient experience. This provides an opportunity to drive improvement that will not only benefit millions of patients each year but will also enhance productivity and more efficient use of scarce NHS resources.”

Dr Ramani Moonesinghe, Chief Investigator of the study and Director of the HSRC said: “This research provides important information which will help us improve anaesthetic services for the millions of people across the world each year who undergo surgery requiring anaesthesia care. While the SNAP1 study does not tell us why women are more likely to experience severe discomfort after surgery, other research points towards plausible reasons why, for example, women feel pain and cold more than men. At the very least, we will use these findings to better prepare future patients for their procedure. Furthermore, simple interventions which have previously been shown to reduce anxiety and pain, such as listening to music around the time of surgery4 could be rapidly implemented across the NHS at no extra cost and potentially offer huge benefits to patients.”


  1. EMK Walker, M Bell, TM Cook, MPW Grocott, and SR Moonesinghe for the SNAP-1 investigators. Patient reported outcome of adult perioperative anaesthesia in the United Kingdom: a cross-sectional observational study. British Journal of Anaesthesia 2016.
  2. Sprint National Anaesthesia Project (SNAP-1) Led by the National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia’s Health Services Research Centre (NIAA-HSRC) and published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, the Sprint National Anaesthesia Project (SNAP-1) study gathered detailed feedback from over 15,000 adult patients undergoing surgery within 257 NHS hospitals over a 48 hour period – making it the largest ever study of this kind conducted in the UK.
  3. Patients were recruited from 257 hospitals within 171 English and Scottish NHS Trusts, Welsh Health Boards and Northern Irish Health and Social Care Trusts – this represented 97% of NHS acute secondary care organisations providing adult services – 146 of the 149 in England (98%), 13 of 14 (93%) in Scotland, six of seven (86%) in Wales and six of six (100%) in Northern Ireland.
  4. Hole et al; Music as an aid for postoperative recovery in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet 2015; 386: 1659-71


Additional study information
Ratios for women experiencing severe symptoms compared to men (independent or irrespective of other risk factors) as follows:

  • nausea/vomiting – 2.77:1
  • cold – 2.69:1
  • pain – 1.73:1
  • drowsiness – 1.7:1
  • sore throat – 1.52:1
  • thirst – 1.32:1

Having regional anaesthesia (injection to numb nerves for surgery) without a general anaesthetic (going to sleep for surgery) was associated with a lower incidence of pain at the surgical site.

03 March 2017

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