Anaesthetics and intensive care medicine in-depth review

Anaesthetics and intensive care medicine in-depth review


On 26 February, 2015, we published an in-depth review of the anaesthetics and intensive care medicine (ICM) workforce in England. Jointly commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) and the Department of Health (DH), the review identifies key drivers of demand and supply that could affect the anaesthetics and ICM workforces over the next 20 years.

Our research suggests that by 2033:

  • Demand based on population growth and demographic changes alone is projected to increase by 25 per cent, although CfWI stakeholders have cautioned that there could be a potential larger increase of up to 4.7 per cent annually due to rising average need.
  • Supply based on current conditions with no changes to key modelling assumptions is projected to increase by 31 per cent.
  • Therefore, while there may be sufficient workforce supply to meet patient demand resulting solely from the growing, ageing population the uncertainty about future demand (illustrated by our range of scenario projections) points to a need for regular reviews.

Our main suggestions are:

  • HEE considers continuing to fill the current number of higher specialty trainee (ST3) posts for anaesthetists and intensivists in England to minimise the risk of short-term undersupply.
  • A further workforce stocktake of anaesthetics and ICM should be undertaken in two to three years’ time.
  • HEE considers working with service commissioners and the relevant specialties and professions to consider ways in which changes to the clinical skill mix might help manage the increasing perioperative role.

The report has been provided to Health Education England and the Department of Health, and will help inform the decisions they make as part of their annual workforce planning process.  The report provides a range of possible scenarios that could be considered alongside other emerging evidence to refine the assumptions and produce a clearer picture of likely future supply and demand. The CfWI has modelled possibilities, and these can then inform discussion amongst any stakeholder group that plans workforces in these vital areas.

Anaesthetics is the largest hospital-based medical specialty. Consultants grouped under anaesthetics in the published Health and Social Care Information Centre data account for 16 per cent of the total NHS consultant workforce on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis in England. The consultant workforce FTE in this broad anaesthetics group has grown substantially during the last decade, up by 54 per cent from 2003 to 2013.

Training in ICM was traditionally undertaken as part of a joint programme with another specialty, mainly anaesthetics, but from 2012 the training pathway for ICM changed so that trainees can choose to work towards dual CCTs or opt for a single CCT in ICM. The majority of the ICM consultant service is delivered by individuals who also provide anaesthetics service and may have been coded as anaesthetists.

Read the full report here: