Anaesthetics - Eastern services

Anaesthesia means "loss of sensation". Anaesthetics are medicines used during surgical operations to numb certain areas of the body or send you to sleep. This prevents pain and discomfort. They are also used for some types of tests and diagnostic procedures. They are administered by an anaesthetist, a doctor who has received specialist training in anaesthesia.

Our Anaesthetics Department works across many different specialities including general surgery, gastroenterology, maternity, orthopaedics and more. We have a dedicated team based in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Wonford), and at the North Devon District Hospital, but you may also see an anaesthetist if your particular type of surgery is taking place in one of our community hospitals.

More about us

We work closely with other departments to make sure our patients are assessed before their operation, and we also provide support for pain relief before, during and after surgery. We are also involved in the care of patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), High Dependency Unit (HDU), and the obstetric unit. We help with the transfer of critically ill patients too. 

Our obstetric anaesthesia team provides epidural services round the clock, working with midwives and obstetricians and assisting with instrumental deliveries and caesarean sections.

We offer a day surgery anaesthesia service and run a paediatric anaesthesia service with some consultants having special interests in paediatric anaesthesia. We make sure that anxious children are made to feel safe and comfortable throughout their procedure.

We also advise and administer premedication where needed. 

Where to find us

Eastern services

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Wonford) 

Level 1, Area R

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Wonford)
Barrack Road



We also provide our service within the community theatre suites at Axminster, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Tiverton.

Meet the team

Within our theatres team, there are around 145 theatre staff and 52 recovery unit staff, consisting of staff nurses, operating department practitioners (ODP) and theatre assistants, working alongside consultant surgeons, registrars, consultant anaesthetists, junior doctors and specialist practitioners. We cover a large number of specialities and run a rota for staff to be resident in the hospital overnight for emergencies.

The senior matron and theatre manager oversee the running of the department, and support over 150 staff within the department. Alongside this, the senior ODP oversees the trained staff working within anaesthetics, and the recovery matron runs our recovery suite and the team of staff working within recovery.

Before your operation

Before your procedure, your anaesthetist will discuss a number of things with you including:

  • The types of anaesthetic appropriate for the procedure you are having
  • Any risks or side effects associated with different types of anaesthetics

They will also plan the anaesthetic and pain control with you, taking into account any preferences or allergies you might have for a particular type of medication.

You should ask your anaesthetist to clarify anything you are unsure about and raise any queries you might have.

How Anaesthetics work

Anaesthetics induce unconsciousness by blocking sensations travelling through nerves in the brain. During this state, procedures can be carried out safely without the patient being aware or feeling any pain. The patient then regains consciousness when the anaesthetics are worn off.

A general anaesthetic can be given in the form of an injection into a vein or through a gas which is breathed in. Alternatively, local anaesthetics can be applied to specific parts of the body, such as spinal anaesthesia, epidural anaesthesia or using a ‘nerve block’ to numb a limb, avoiding the need for general anaesthesia.

The type of anaesthesia you have depends on:

  • The operation you are having
  • Any preexisting health problems 
  • Your preferences
  • The anaesthesia equipment available in the hospital

Side effects

Your anaesthetist will tell you about any side effects you may experience after having a specific type of anaesthetic.

Some of the common side effects that can occur after having a general anaesthetic and some regional anaesthetics include:

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Dizziness and feeling faint
  • Feeling cold or shivering
  • Headache
  • Sore throat because of the breathing tube
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Aches and pains

These are usually short-term and pass quickly, and some can be treated if necessary. You should tell the healthcare professionals treating you if you experience any of the above side effects or if you are in pain after your procedure.

Anaesthesia and risk

Your team will discuss the risks and complications associated with anaesthesia, and assess your individual needs and medical history. This pre-assessment will help us to plan your care and plan how to manage any side effects you may experience. 

Last updated: September 12, 2023.