What to Expect Working in Anaesthetics in the NHS

11 Minutes

Many international medical graduates (IMGs) decide to work in anaesthetics in the NHS. It’s not a decision to take lightly. After all, moving from one country to the next requires a lot of time, work, and money! Plus, anyone who works in anaesthetics, for the NHS or otherwise, will tell you that the role is no walk in the park.

So, what makes being an NHS anaesthetist so appealing? Even though uprooting your life might be scary, working as an anaesthetist in the UK offers an excellent work-life balance, a high salary, and plenty of other perks. It’s not a simple route by any means, but it can make an excellent career for those with the right skills.

What is it Like to Work for the NHS?

Working for the NHS is different depending on what department you work for. Generally, though, you can expect busy, fast-paced days. No two days will ever be the same, as you’ll see many patients with various problems.

As an anaesthetist, working for the NHS won’t be too different from working as an anaesthetist in another country. After all, the work is basically the same – providing anaesthetic to patients that need it, often for pain relief and induced sleep. However, the NHS does provide great pay for anaesthetists with registrar salaries often upwards of £60k per year. Plus, you can expect paid time off and a good pension plan.

Securing an NHS Anaesthetics Job

Does working for the NHS as an anaesthetist sound like the right path for you? If so, here are some of the steps you need to follow.

Post-graduate Qualifications

To work for the NHS as an anaesthetist, you need GMC registration. There are a couple of paths for this, all of which include a post-grad qualification. We recommend pursuing FRCA for GMC registration, as it provides a certificate of excellence and is widely known and used. Alternatively, you could do the EDAIC for IMGs, which involves two separate exams.

From the time you graduate with a medical degree, expect to spend a few years in training before completing your post-grad qualification and getting GMC certified.

Update Your CV

If you have your post-grad qualification and have proven your English language knowledge, the next step is to prove to NHS employers that you are worthy of hiring. A big part of that comes down to your CV. NHS recruiters read many CVs, so you must make sure yours stands out. Include all relevant work experience, ensuring that the CV is clear and concise. Need help writing a good CV? Don’t worry – that’s what we do best at BDI resourcing; we can help you create a CV that stands out from the crowd.

Prepare for Your Interview

Interviewing with the NHS can be a daunting prospect however we have you covered with this excellent video from Anaesthetics recruitment expert Alice Howe in which she shares her secrets for success:

Collect Evidence for CESR As You Go

Are you choosing the route of CESR to qualify for the NHS? If so, start building your portfolio early, adding all the relevant experience. Doing it as you go makes it easier in the long run.

Be Flexible

Your first role as an NHS Anaesthetist might not be your dream speciality, and that’s OK. You might have to choose a general anaesthesia post before specialising, as there are far more general anaesthesia positions available. You can also specialise further down the road when you’ve already established yourself as a doctor in the UK.

Living in the UK as an International Anaesthetist

As you’d expect, being an anaesthetist in the UK involves administering anaesthesia to patients when necessary. That might include resuscitation, aiding those with chronic pain, or attending emergencies. What’s different about working for the NHS, though? To gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be an NHS anaesthetist, this is what Amandeep Sachdeva has to say,

“Working as a speciality doctor in ITU shifts, you are alone at night and have to cater to A&E calls for possible transfers to ITU. You get stretched out mentally and physically, and are unable to provide self-care to patients already in ITU while you are away from them – but you are held responsible for any incident.”

As you can see, where you work dramatically influences the experience – working in ITU shifts can be draining. Therefore, you must ensure you have the stamina and passion for giving non-stop care even during the more tiresome shifts.

Remember that while NHS work can be stressful, you get a lot of time off, meaning you can invest plenty of hours into your hobbies, family, and friends. With the good work-life balance that the NHS offers, you can expect life in the UK to be quite pleasant. Of course, that does depend on where you live. Life in UK cities will significantly differ from living in surrounding towns or villages. Plus, the cost of living can vary greatly - living somewhere like London will cost you far more than living in the North. At BDI Resourcing, we have an entire section dedicated to living in UK cities, so check that out if you want more information on a particular UK city.

Choosing a Specialisation

As mentioned, you might have to choose a more general anaesthesia role at first in order to acquire your first NHS job. However, the NHS provides employees with plenty of great development opportunities, so you might choose a specialisation further down the line. Of course, the specialisation you pick will significantly impact your experience in your career. Here are some of the specialisations you can choose from:

Intensive Care

Working in intensive care involves administering anaesthesia to those critically ill with various illnesses, infections, or traumas. This kind of anaesthesia career is very intense. Getting an EDAIC (European Diploma of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care) can help you prepare for it.

Pain Specialists

Pain specialists provide pain relief for those suffering from long-term, often chronic pain. It’s about helping them manage their dosage so that they can have a better quality of life.


Working in neuro-anaesthesia is very specialist – it involves providing anaesthetic techniques during brain surgery to ensure optimal pain relief. It’s also essential for keeping the brain in good condition throughout the surgical procedure.

Paediatric Anaesthesia

Working as a paediatric anaesthetist means administering anaesthetic only to children – usually from birth up to eighteen years old.

Obstetric Anaesthesia

Choosing obstetric anaesthesia as your speciality means working in the labour ward to provide pain relief to pregnant women during labour. You might also help with various issues during pregnancy and birth.

Cardiac Anaesthesia

Cardiac anaesthetists support the heart during open-heart surgery by ensuring the patient stays anaesthetised throughout.

Emergency Care and Resuscitation

Working in emergency care and resuscitation involves responding quickly to emergencies. Often, anaesthetists in this department travel to the scene of accidents to help save lives.

As you can see, there are multiple different areas you can work in as an anaesthetist in the UK. Depending on your chosen speciality, you’ll also work in different locations, such as speciality wards, emergency wards, theatres, and the ICU.

In Summary

Working for the NHS as an anaesthetist can be extremely fulfilling, especially if you’re someone who likes to work in a fast-paced environment. Getting the right qualifications and securing your first position might not be easy, but the end result is more than worth it for the right person. If you’re considering your options and would like to know more about careers in anaesthetics within the NHS then get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk through your options.