The future is bright for Anaesthesia Associates

Published: 02/09/2022 | Author: Lisa Churchill

It is an exciting time for Anaesthesia Associates (AAs) in the UK, a role that has consumed my life for over 20 years. After working in Switzerland as a Nurse Anaesthetist, I returned to the UK in 2005 with my husband who is an Anaesthesia Associate from the Netherlands. We were recruited onto the “New Ways of Working in Anaesthesia” pilot study, part of the National Practitioner Programme. Following a successful year, we signed up to the first trainee intake for the Anaesthetic Practitioner course at Birmingham University, and have since worked in the role in both England and Wales.

Anaesthesia Associates have been slow to gain popularity in comparison to the other Medical Associate Professions (MAPs) despite earlier introduction. It has been 2 decades of clinical, cultural, and political challenge, and whilst early adopters recognise the value, flexibility and benefits of the role, many organisations remain cautious, the lack of statutory regulation fuelling the scepticism. For a passionate advocate like myself, with experience in a country where similar roles are customary practice, the progression was demoralising at times.

In 2019, the senior management team at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, acknowledging the serious workforce shortages in Anaesthesia, began to look at viable options as part of a wider plan. In 2020 my husband and I, were invited by Dr Jonathan Harrison, the then Clinical Director in Anaesthetics, to present the Anaesthesia Associate role to hospital key stakeholders. The trust was no stranger to Medical Associate Professions, having already established the other 3 MAP disciplines within the organisation.

The interest and commitment towards working differently was evident, and our talk was positively received. I sensed a real change in mood, possibly due to the pressures from the pandemic, however we felt excited by the support and enthusiasm, particularly following consultation within the anaesthesia department.

A business case was approved for an AA training programme 3 months later and I felt my passion ignite and a strong desire to be a part of the team at the Queen Alexandra Hospital. Despite living in Wales, I was successful in securing a 2-year secondment to Portsmouth and I joined AA Consultant leads Dr Sean Elliot and Dr Hugh Cutler. Together we formed a training team and an AA training programme, which commenced later in September 2021.

Fundamental change is happening nationally for Anaesthesia Associates, and the future looks very positive. A new faculty is currently under development at the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the GMC are committed to regulate the role by 2024, HEE are offering funding and financial support, and a new curriculum and core capability framework is due to be published. I am hopeful this support and investment will offer security and reassurance for all NHS organisations, to take the leap of faith, and invest in a sustainable high-quality, future workforce aimed to strengthen the Anaesthesia team.

I urge the senior AAs in the UK, to take any opportunity to share their knowledge and experience, and consider stepping into a Lead role, to support new organisations recruit, train, and develop Anaesthesia Associates. It has been a rewarding experience for me, worth every moment of my weekly 400-mile commute.

In Portsmouth we currently have four trainee Anaesthesia Associates and another four set to commence in September 2022, including 2 science graduate direct entrants.  We are very proud of the programme and are keen and willing to share our experience with other centres.

For further information about the role please contact the Association of Anaesthesia Associates (AAA)  or email


Lisa Churchill
Lead Anaesthesia Associate
Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust