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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Anaesth

Publication Date





575 - 584


airway, anaesthesia, audit, level of consciousness, monitoring, sedation, technique, Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Anesthesia, Anesthesia Recovery Period, Anesthesia, Conduction, Anesthesiology, Anesthetics, Child, Child, Preschool, Conscious Sedation, Consciousness Monitors, Consultants, Emergency Medical Services, Female, General Surgery, Health Care Surveys, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Medical Audit, Middle Aged, Monitoring, Intraoperative, Monitoring, Physiologic, Patient Admission, Perioperative Period, Pregnancy, Specialization, State Medicine, United Kingdom, Young Adult