A Blessing in Disguise: Safety and Training

Following deaths from anaesthesia as early as 1847, Dr John Snow realised the importance of training those administering these dangerous drugs, and published the first textbooks on the subject. Fredric Hewitt supported the General Anaesthetics Bill which sought to ensure that anaesthetics would only be given by qualified doctors but the onset of World War 1 prevented it from becoming law. Later, others persuaded the General Medical Council and the government that patients would not be safe unless only properly trained doctors were allowed to give anaesthetics. Dentists, however, continued administering anaesthesia in surgeries until 2002.

A proposal for a diploma in anaesthetics from 1932 in the AAGBI's minutes

A proposal for a diploma in anaesthetics from 1932 in the AAGBI’s minutes

In 1935 the Conjoint Board of the Royal College of Surgeons and Royal College of Physicians, held the first examination for the Diploma in Anaesthetics, and in 1948 responsibility for training passed to the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons (now the Royal College of Anaesthetists).

Today’s anaesthetists are fully trained medical doctors.

It takes a minimum of 9 years from medical school graduation to complete this training. They cannot progress to the next stage of training until they have reached the required standards and passed the exacting two part examination of the Royal College. UK trainees who have successfully completed the whole training programme can have their names included in the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register, apply for consultant posts in the National Health Service and administer anaesthesia without supervision.

The exam paper set for the Diploma in Anaesthetics, 1948

The exam paper set for the Diploma in Anaesthetics, 1948

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