About us

The anaesthetics department performs approximately 20,000 procedures each year and works closely with other departments with Northern Devon District Hospital to ensure that patients receive appropriate pain relief before, during and after treatment. The team is heavily involved with the care of patients in ICU/HDU, the obstetric unit and in the transfer of critically ill patients. The acute pain team is also part of the anaesthetics department.

Who are anaesthetists?

Anaesthetists are doctors who have specialist training in the use anaesthetics and management of pain relief. The department currently has 22 Consultants and 8 associate specialists as well as, a number of staff grade doctors. The department also provides training for Foundation level doctors as part of their post graduate training schedule.

When you come into hospital your anaesthetist will be looking to make your experience as pleasant and pain free as possible. They will discuss the different types of anaesthesia including the risks associated so that you can make an informed choice. Before an operation/treatment goes ahead they will agree with you a plan for your anaesthesia and pain control.

What are anaesthetics?

Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain and other sensations. It can be given in various ways and does not always make you unconscious.

Local anaesthesia

Local anaesthesia involves injections (‘magic cream’ is also used), which numb a small part of your body. You remain conscious but are free from pain.

Regional anaesthesia

Regional anaesthesia involves injections which numb a larger or deeper part of the body e.g. an epidural. You remain conscious but are free from pain.

General anaesthesia

General anaesthesia gives a state of controlled unconsciousness and is essential for some operations. You are unconscious and feel nothing.

The choice of anaesthetic given will depend on:

  • The operation you are having.
  • The answers you have given to questions from the anaesthetist.
  • Your physical condition.
  • Your preferences.
  • The anaesthesia and equipment available in the hospital.


Premedication (a ‘premed’) is the name for drugs, which are given before an anaesthetic. Some premeds prepare your body for the anaesthetic, other help you to relax. Taking a premed may make you drowsier after the operation and it may delay you going home. Please discuss it with your anaesthetist when they speak to you before your operation.

Where can I find more information?

There are a number of patient information leaflets which give more information on the different types of anaesthesia available and give more detail on what happens when you come into hospital click here.

You can also get more information at

Last updated: June 11, 2019