The state of UK anaesthesia: a survey of National Health Service activity in 2013.
Sury MRJ., Palmer JHMG., Cook TM., Pandit JJ.
BACKGROUND: Details of current UK anaesthetic practice are unknown and were needed for interpretation of reports of accidental awareness during general anaesthesia (GA) within the 5th National Audit Project. METHODS: We surveyed NHS anaesthetic activity to determine numbers of patients managed by anaesthetists and details of 'who, when, what, and where': activity included GA, local anaesthesia, sedation, or patients managed awake. Anaesthetists in NHS hospitals collected data on all patients for 2 days. Scaling enabled estimation of annual activity. RESULTS: Hospital response rate was 100% with 20,400 returns. The median return rate within departments was 98% (inter-quartile range 0.95-1). Annual numbers (% of total) of general anaesthetics, sedation, and awake cases were 2,766,600 (76.9%), 308,800 (8.6%), and 523,100 (14.5%), respectively. A consultant or career grade anaesthetist was present in more than 87% of cases. Emergency cases accounted for 23.1% of workload, 75% of which were undertaken out of hours. Specialties with the largest workload were orthopaedics/trauma (22.1%), general surgery (16.1%), and gynaecology (9.6%): 6.2% of cases were non-surgical. The survey data describe: who anaesthetized patients according to time of day, urgency, and ASA grade; when anaesthesia took place by day and by weekday; the distribution of patient types, techniques, and monitoring; where patients were anaesthetized. Nine patients out of 15 460 receiving GA died intraoperatively. CONCLUSIONS: Anaesthesia in the UK is currently predominantly a consultant-delivered service. The low mortality rate supports the safety of UK anaesthetic care. The survey data should be valuable for planning and monitoring anaesthesia services.