The anaesthesia team

The anaesthesia team

Anaesthetists are supported in their work by trained staff. Staff working in theatre usually wear the same colour scrub suits – although the colour varies between hospitals. All staff should be wearing name badges which say what their role is.

Operating department practitioners (ODP)

These staff have done a two-year training course or a degree to learn to help the anaesthetist and the surgeon and to provide care in the recovery room.

Theatre nurses

Theatre nurses have completed full general-nursing training. They have chosen to specialise in theatre work. An extra six-month training course in anaesthetics allows them to work as an anaesthetic assistant.

Recovery-room staff

These staff may be nurses or ODPs.

Medical students and other staff in training

There may be staff in training in the theatre. They can only take part in your care if carefully supervised and with your permission.

Anaesthesia Associates

Physicians’ assistant (anaesthesia) [PA(A)s] were introduced in 2004. In July 2019 PA(A)s formally changed their name to Anaesthesia Associates (AAs), recognising their role within the anaesthesia team and also within medical associate professions. AAs are trained healthcare professionals who are members of the multidisciplinary anaesthetic team in some hospitals. This leaflet explains who they are, how they are trained and where you may meet them in your hospital.

How are AAs trained?

In order to commence an AA training programme, AAs are required to hold a biomedical/biological science degree, or to have a minimum of three years experience as a Registered Healthcare Professional (such as a Nurse or Operating Department Practitioner). They are then required to successfully complete a two-year postgraduate training programme. During this time they are trained by consultant anaesthetists, who are fully qualified doctors with specialist training in anaesthesia. AA training is based within a hospital. They work alongside consultant anaesthetists who continually support and assess them. The qualification (either a postgraduate diploma or MSc) is university-based and recognised by the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

How do AAs contribute to the anaesthesia team?

This role has come about to help anaesthesia teams in hospitals work more flexibly. 

The introduction into the NHS of the AA role within the multidisciplinary anaesthesia team increases the workforce and can mean that in some hospitals more operations can be performed safely by allowing consultants to take responsibility for two patients at the same time. The consultant anaesthetist supervises the whole team, including AAs, to ensure that the highest standards of care are maintained for all patients. AAs can also help assess patients arriving for surgery at different times throughout the day so that delays are minimised. A voluntary register of trained AAs is kept by the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

How is an AA involved in my care?

AAs always work under the close supervision of a consultant anaesthetist, who will be responsible for your anaesthesia care at all times.  

Both the consultant anaesthetist and AA will be with you at the start and at other significant times of your anaesthetic. The consultant will remain in the theatre suite. They will be supervising no more than two AAs at any one time in different theatres, and will never be more than two minutes away.

You may meet an AA at any stage of your anaesthetic care and they may: 

  • assess you before the operation to check your health and to discuss your care during and after your surgery. After discussing any choices with you, they will plan your anaesthetic care and agree this plan with the consultant anaesthetist who oversees and is responsible for your care
  • give your anaesthetic or sedation under the supervision of a consultant
  • in some hospitals, experienced AAs, after extra training and subject to local agreement, may also perform nerve blocks or other monitoring procedures for some operations
  • assess you after the operation to make sure that you are recovering well
  • provide resuscitation in case of emergency.
Where can I get more information? 

You can read more information on the role of the AA below: