Poor pay rates putting off anaesthetists

By Agnes Rose

Poor payment levels are contributing to a fall in the number of consultant anaesthetists wanting to work privately.

The Association of Anaesthetists has reported seeing an increasing number of its specialist members – usually more recently appointed ones – choosing not to take independent practice work.

It said availability of anaesthetists had also been hit by an increase by the number of specialists retiring. 

In a statement to Independent Practitioner Today, the association blamed remuneration as one of many causes for anaesthetists choosing not to put their time into the independent sector.

It said: ‘Fees for anaesthetists have always been very much less than for surgeons, and now the numbers just don’t stack up. 

‘This is true for insured patients and is particularly so for NHS work undertaken in independent hospitals, which can be paid at £50-£100/hour. 

‘With the current backlog, there are, in most NHS hospitals, plenty of extra lists or initiative lists which are usually better remunerated – i.e. per hour. 

‘Do patients want their care in independent hospitals to be provided by the ‘usual team’ or anaesthetist – and in some cases a surgeon –  appointed by the hospital? We are not sure they have ever been asked.’ 

Association president Dr Matt Davies, responding to Govern­ment’s financial plans for the NHS announced last month, said: ‘With a 1,400-short anaesthetic workforce, we need to see an increase in efforts to recruit and retain anaesthetists if we are to sustainably clear the surgical backlogs and maintain an acceptable level of patient safety’.