In order to become an anaesthetist the doctor has to undergo six years of undergraduate training at medical school like every other doctor. After this a year of internship is required, and then a year of community service.
At this stage the graduate doctor has had very little special training in anaesthesia and although he or she may have had to administer an anaesthetic in extraordinary situations, he or she is not sufficiently trained to administer a safe anaesthetic.
Some general practitioners may undergo six months of basic anaesthetic training and take an examination for which they will be awarded a Diploma in Anaesthesia. This equips him or her to administer simple anaesthetics to healthy patients.
To specialise in anaesthesia requires a further four years of training, during which time two very demanding examinations have to be passed. At the conclusion of this the doctor can register with the Health Professions Council as an Anaesthesiologist, or Specialist Anaesthetist.
You will know that your anaesthetist is a specialist by the fact that he is referred to as an Anaesthesiologist and will have his qualifications listed on his letterhead. This may be either an FCA (Fellow of the College of Anaesthetists) or the University degree of MMED(Anaesthesiology).
You should know that you are entitled to choose to be anaesthetised by a specialist anaesthetist (an anaesthesiologist) rather than by a Diplomate or ordinary general practitioner experienced in anaesthesia. You may also choose which anaesthesiologist you would like to administer your anaesthetic, although many surgeons and anaesthesiologists work together as a team and when you choose a surgeon for your operation, he or she may have an arrangement of convenience with a particular anaesthesiologist to administer the anaesthetics on his/her operating list.
Furthermore, many anaesthesiologists have special expertise and experience in different fields of anaesthesia. There are thus those who are particularly experienced in cardiac anaesthesia, or paediatric anaesthesia or neurosurgical anaesthesia, for example.