Anaesthetics - Northern services

Anaesthesia literally means "loss of sensation". It can involve a simple local anaesthetic injection which numbs a small part of the body, such as a finger or around a tooth. It can also involve using powerful medications which cause unconsciousness or ‘general anaesthesia’. 

These medications also affect the function of the heart, lungs and circulation. As a result, general anaesthesia is only given under the close supervision of an anaesthetist, who is trained to consider the best way to give you an effective anaesthetic while keeping you safe and well.

The medication used in local anaesthesia work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain. When the medication wears off, you start to feel normal sensations again.

Our Anaesthetics Department works across many different specialities including general surgery, gastroenterology, maternity, orthopaedics and more. We have a dedicated team based in North Devon District Hospital who offer both elective and emergency care throughout the hospital. 

More about us

We work closely with other departments to make sure our patients are assessed before their procedure or operation, and we also provide support for pain relief before, during and after surgery. We are 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 around the hospital and if they require a specialist service, to other hospitals. 

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 dedicated preoperative service, 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, including the use of premedication.

Where to find us

Northern Services

North Devon District Hospital 

On Level 3 near the main lifts

North Devon District Hospital
Raleigh Park
EX31 4JB

Meet the team

The department at North Devon District Hospital is made up of Consultants, Specialists, Speciality doctors, Fellows and Trainee anaesthetists. We also teach medical students and support visiting clinicians from other departments, such as the Emergency Department or Medicine, to their professional goals. We work closely with our surgical and obstetric colleagues, theatre teams, operating department practitioners, recovery teams and midwives. We offer a dedicated inpatient and outpatient pain service, made up of consultants and nurses. 

We cover a large number of specialities throughout the hospital and run a resident rota in the hospital overnight for emergencies.

Roughly half of the department specialise in Critical Care. We provide a fully staffed 24-hour critical care service supporting the emergency department and wards. 

We have a nurse-led pre-operative clinic at our Bideford site 5 days a week. These are supported with dedicated Consultant Anaesthetist sessions, for those patients that require further assessment and optimisation prior to their planned procedure. 

We are supported by an admin team who staff the department five days a week during working hours. 

Before your operation

Pre-operative services
After seeing the surgeon in clinic, but prior to the day of surgery, you will be assessed by one of the Pre-operative team. The team is made up of pre-operative nurses and Consultant anaesthetists with an interest in pre-operative care.  The person you see will be dependent on where you are having your surgery alongside your current health and the operation that you about to have. You may be required to have some test and investigations prior to the surgery in order to make sure that we can discuss all appropriate risks. 
On the day of surgery

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: October 31, 2023.