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Applying to Health Education England, Working across Wessex

Image of trainee anaesthetists in a consultant-led tutorial

The School was formed in 1995 to coordinate the training of anaesthetists in what was then known as the Wessex Deanery (now Health Education England, Working across Wessex).

Geographically, it now covers Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Bournemouth, Dorchester, Salisbury, Winchester and Basingstoke. Health Education Wessex, and the administration of the School of Anaesthesia, are based in Southern House, Otterbourne.

We provide 

  • A very supportive environment for you in all aspects of your training with excellent novice courses, simulator training and “buddy schemes”.
  • Exam courses for the FRCA are provided free to Wessex trainees and have an excellent overall pass rate.
  • List-based and classroom-based teaching is also provided for the Primary FRCA exam in all Wessex anaesthetic departments.
  • There are opportunities to get involved in many activities such as Patient Safety initiatives, research projects via our SPARC trainee led research group, simulator training, becoming trainee representatives and facilitating conferences and courses.
  • Our Educational Supervisors and College Tutors are all well trained and motivated and we have several Consultants who are Royal College of Anaesthetists’ FRCA examiners.
  • Anaesthetic and ICM training occurs in eight hospital sites across the Region. Southampton General Hospital is the largest of these with several theatre suites and four Intensive Care Units (ICUs): General, Cardiac, Paediatric & Neurology. The two other large Trusts are Portsmouth and Poole & Bournemouth. There are also four smaller DGHs: Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester, Salisbury District Hospital , the Royal Hampshire Hospital in Winchester and the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke.
  • Core training lasts for two years (21 months anaesthetic training and three months doing ICM) with each year being spent in a different Trust. You are allocated whenever possible to posts on one side of the Local Office; East or West. However, all trainees should be prepared to go to any of the Wessex hospitals.


Administration of the School

The Anaesthetic School Board ensures that training conforms to the pattern required by the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and Health Education England, Working across Wessex. The School Board includes the Head of School (Dr Julie Onslow), the Regional Adviser, Deputy Regional Adviser, the RAs for ICM and Pain Management, the Training Programme Directors (CT – Dr Poppy Mackie; (ST3+  – Dr Ian Taylor) and a Trainee Representative. A larger training committee (the STC), which also includes the College Tutors, meets three times per year.


Recruitment to UK anaesthetic training programmes is by national application (coordinated by West Midlands Local Office (ANRO) and then Local Office (Unit of Application) -based interviews. The person specifications for entry to anaesthetic training programmes are available on the RCoA website.

The Wessex School of Anaesthesia runs bi-annual recruitment into our CT and ST3+ training programmes. Interviews are normally held between January - March for the following August and in September/October for the following February. Although we interview locally, the application and recruitment process is coordinated nationally. The following websites are a great resource when planning your application.

Royal College Of Anaesthetists Recruitment Pages

Health Education England

Core Training in Anaesthesia

At present, trainees can enter anaesthetic training via two routes, either Core Anaesthetic Training (CT) or Acute Care Common Stem (ACCS Anaesthesia) training. (Go to the ACCS Anaesthesia for more details).

Anaesthetics Core Training is a two-year programme which comprises 21 months of anaesthesia and three months of Intensive Care Medicine (Basic ICM). Following this, subject to satisfactory progression, including passing the Primary FRCA, the trainee will be eligible to apply for ST3 training.

Acute Care Common Stem Training is a three-year programme which gives core training in the acute specialties. In Wessex the first two years consist of six months each of Acute Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthetics. In Wessex, applicants must nominate their chosen specialty, ‘base specialty’, at the outset. ACCS trainees are based in Southampton, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Poole and Basingstoke.

Specialty Training in Anaesthesia (ST 3-7)

After completion of core training or ACCS, trainees must apply competitively for speciality training.

Trainees must have possession of a completed core level training certificate prior to commencing their post.

Intermediate Training (ST3 and ST4) posts are distributed between all hospitals in the training programme. The Final FRCA must be completed by mid ST5.

Higher and Advanced Training begins in the ST5 year. A valued and important aspect of the training scheme is to experience specialty training in hospitals differing in size and specialisation. At least two of the last three years must be undertaken in the UK but there are options for Out of Programme Training/Research/Experience – see below. During Higher and Advanced Training, the wishes of the trainee for specialised work will be respected as far as possible within the guidance of the curriculum. Trainees should discuss their aims with their Educational Supervisor/College Tutor and with the Programme Director at an early stage.

Intensive Care Medicine (ICM)

All of the Intensive Care Units in Wessex are approved for core training with intermediate, higher and advanced training taking place in Portsmouth, Poole & Bournemouth and Southampton. During CT1 a period of three months of ICM training is mandatory. Any additional time spent in ICM cannot be 'carried over' to ST training. A further three months of ICM training is required during Intermediate Training (ST3-4) and three months in Higher Training (ST5-6).

We also offer dual training in ICM

There is a separate Programme Director and Regional Adviser in ICM who organise ICM training in close liaison with the Anaesthetic TPD.

ARCP and assessment

All trainees are allocated an Educational Supervisor and each anaesthetic department in Wessex has active appraisal and assessment systems in place. The current assessment tools are Anaesthesia Clinical Evaluation Exercise (A-CEX), Direct Observation of Procedural Skills (DOPS), Anaesthesia List Management Assessment Tool (ALMAT), Case-based Discussion (CbD) and Multi-Source Feedback (MSF).

For most trainees, acquisition of the Primary or Final FRCA remains the main academic goal during the first years of training (CT1-2 for Primary and ST3-4 for Final) and there are regular protected teaching sessions directed at this. For each trainee, there is an annual budget for study leave. At present, CT1-4s are allowed 30 days per annum to include 30 half days protected teaching and 15 days leave to attend courses. ST5-7s are allowed 30 days per year to include 10 days per annum to attend appropriate external courses/conferences.

The ARCP process

The progress of trainees is monitored by local appraisal throughout each hospital attachment. In addition, at the end of each year an assessment report is provided to inform the ARCP (Annual Review of Competency Progression), which are performed by School representatives. Although the ARCP process is not face to face, Trainees will be invited to attend an Educational Review that will take place at Southern House, Otterbourne, SO21 2RU. Trainees are informed of the date of their forthcoming ARCP date by the Specialty Programme Administrator at Health Education, Working across Wessex well in advance and are responsible for ensuring the necessary documentation is submitted.

The ARCP process is considered an extremely serious part of the training programme overall. The final ARCP is conducted within three months of the proposed CCT date. Failure to satisfy the ARCP panel or to provide the relevant documentation can lead to a recommendation that the year, or part of it, be repeated and that progress to the subsequent year(s) be stopped.

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