Report of member survey on anaesthesia associates

Published: 10/04/2024

The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) has published the findings of our survey of members’ perceptions and experiences of anaesthesia associates (AAs).  

The survey was designed by the College and conducted by Research by Design, an independent research agency, between 21 August and 21 September 2023. All members of the College working as anaesthetists in the NHS/HSC were invited to complete the survey.  

The survey was completed by 6,049 anaesthetists, representing 35% of the College’s eligible membership and making it the largest survey of anaesthetists’ opinions on AAs to date. The responses were anonymous and were analysed and reported by Research by Design. We thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey.  

We designed the survey to capture members’ views on the relationship between the AA role and factors including training opportunities for anaesthetists, patient safety, supervision, perceived value for money and NHS England’s proposals to expand the number of AAs. These were the areas that members had raised with us as being particularly important.  

The survey provides valuable data and insights that we are using to inform our work to assess the evidence and develop the College’s position on the AA role. This work is ongoing and therefore we have not provided a full response to the findings at this time.  

However, it is important to acknowledge that overall, the survey shows the majority of members who responded are negative about the AA role and oppose NHS England’s plan to expand AA numbers. The most significant concerns relate to aspects of patient safety and quality of care and to the negative impact on training opportunities for anaesthetists in training. We take these findings extremely seriously. Taken in context of the views expressed at the Extraordinary General Meeting last year, the survey findings reinforce the case for a pause in recruitment of new student AAs.  

We are continuing to gather evidence and have commissioned Cochrane Response to undertake a literature review related to AAs and their international comparators. Our aim is to ensure we have captured a robust synthesis of all relevant published research. We will share our assessment of the evidence (including the survey findings) and what it means for the College’s position in relation to AAs later this year. 

In addition, we are continuing to work with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive scope of practice for AAs beyond the point of qualification. The scope of practice will take effect in 2025 after regulation of AAs is in place.  

We also want to reiterate our support for AAs who are currently training or working in the NHS and whose views and experiences are not represented in this survey. These are colleagues and members of the College who are working hard to care for patients in a profession they have entered in good faith. The ongoing debate about future models of care and the role of medical associate professions is an important one, but we must be mindful of the impact it is having on people and work together to facilitate good professional relationships between all members of our teams.  

If members would like to discuss the findings with Council members, we encourage you to attend one of our Let’s Talk events. The next Let’s Talk is on 16 April and all members are welcome to register.