New Anaesthesia Workforce Map shows huge shortages impacting 5 billion people worldwide

May 24, 2017

Today the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) officially launched a landmark online resource tool mapping the total number of anaesthesia providers worldwide. A high number of countries reported a total anaesthesia provider number of less than 5 per 100,000 population, highlighting the current crisis in the surgical and anaesthesia workforce that has left 5 billion people without access to safe and affordable anaesthesia and surgical care [1].

The WFSA conducted a global workforce survey during 2015-2016, sending member societies a list of information required and a link to an online survey, as well as collecting information from anaesthesiologists during international conferences and contacting anaesthesia providers working in non-WFSA-member countries.

Recent seminal papers have highlighted major discrepancies in the provision of safe anaesthesia and surgery worldwide [1, 2]. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimated that 5 billion of the world's 7 billion people do not have access to safe, affordable anaesthesia and surgical care when needed [1]. As the essential role of anaesthesia in the provision of surgical care is not always understood by decision makers, the development of anaesthesia has often been given a lower priority than the development of surgery per se in the global health agenda.

However, on 22nd May 2015 the World Health Assembly passed the ground-breaking Resolution 68.15 entitled "Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage"[3]; a potential game-changer for the 5 billion people without access.

The online resource tool announced today, which shows data for countries representing more than 7 billion people, highlights the huge shortage in anaesthesia workforce worldwide and also highlights the gap between the rich and poor. There is a large difference between the average anaesthesia provider workforce densities in high income countries compared with low income countries.

For example, there is a 35-fold difference between the anaesthesia provider workforce density in Germany compared with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a 50-fold difference between the workforce density in the United States compared with Indonesia, despite comparable population sizes. While the United States has more than 100,000 anaesthesia providers, Indonesia has only 1,950 to serve the whole population of 323.9 million and 258.3 million respectively.

Of the countries reporting a total anaesthesia provider number of less than 6 per 100,000 population, none are in the North American or European regions. Instead, most are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, the West Pacific, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, South East Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia, where many countries and regions face anaesthesia and surgical workforce shortages.

"The crisis in anaesthesia is perhaps most apparent in terms of workforce. Safe anaesthesia requires a trained provider and yet across large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, and beyond, ratios of far less than 1 trained provider per 100,000 population are commonplace. In high income countries we are used to ratios of 20 per 100,000 or higher, and we experience very low mortality from anaesthesia, yet in low income countries we actually have examples of there being 1,000 times fewer trained providers and 1,000 times higher mortality rates. It's wrong." Julian Gore-Booth, WFSA Chief Executive, explained.

Dr Wayne Morriss, Director of Programmes at the WFSA, shared the significance of the findings: "We know that there is a problem, and we know that there is a solution. Anaesthesia provision is affordable with research from the World Bank highlighting a return on investment as high as ten to one [2]. The map shows that substantial investment in educating anaesthesia providers is required as soon as possible, and the WFSA is well placed to work with the WHO, its own member societies, other specialist medical organisations, governments, NGOs and country level health systems to correct the workforce gap and achieve safe anaesthesia for all by 2030."

The WFSA Global Anaesthesia Workforce Map is being presented at an open event in the Geneva Press Club at 16.00 on Wednesday 24th May 2017 and will be available online from 09.00 BST on 24th May at

[1] Meara JG, Leather AJ, Hagander L, et al. Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development. Lancet 2015; 386:569-624.

[2] World Bank. Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition, Volume 1: Essential Surgery. Available at: doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0346-8.

[3] WHA Resolution 68.15. Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage. World Health Assembly, Geneva, May 2015. Available at: Accessed December 29, 2016.

World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists

Related Anaesthesia Articles from Brightsurf:

During COVID-19 first wave, the proportion of caesarean section deliveries done under
New research from north-west England published in Anaesthesia (a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists) shows that during the first wave of COVID-19, the proportion of caesarean section deliveries carried out under general anaesthesia approximately halved, from 7.7% to 3.7%.

New aerosol research indicates significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission from
New research published in Anaesthesia (a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists) shows that these procedures may only produce a fraction of the aerosols previously thought, much less than would be produced during a single regular cough.

New guidelines say breastfeeding is safe after anaesthesia
New guidelines published by the Association of Anaesthetists in the journal Anaesthesia, to coincide with the start of World Breast Feeding Week (1-7 August) say that breastfeeding is safe after the mother has had anaesthesia, as soon as she is alert and able to feed.

Lego builds anaesthesia skills according to new study
Lego could be used as a practical tool to train doctors in anaesthetic skills according to new research that has shown a simple task using the building bricks can help improve technical skills - a finding that could improve medical training and patient safety.

Study suggests overall COVID-19 intensive care mortality has fallen by a third since the start of the pandemic
A systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies from three continents published in the journal Anaesthesia (a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists) shows that overall mortality of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) has fallen from almost 60% at the end of March to 42% at the end of May -- a relative decrease of almost one third.

Switching from general to regional anaesthesia may cut greenhouse gas emissions
Switching from general to regional anaesthesia may help cut greenhouse emissions and ultimately help reduce global warming, indicates a real life example at one US hospital over the course of a year, and reported in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

The 'purrfect' music for calming cats
Taking a cat to the vets can be a stressful experience, both for cat and owner.

Simple injection of air proves successful in releasing child's tongue trapped in bottle, inspired by opening a wine bottle
A relatively simple injection of air has proved successful in releasing a 7-year-old boy's tongue that became entrapped in a juice bottle, says new research published in the latest edition of the European Journal of Anaesthesiology (the official journal of the European Society of Anaesthesiology).

Virtual reality improves tolerance of anaesthesia procedures and reduces need for intravenous sedation by at least 50%
Giving patients virtual reality sessions before and during locoregional anesthesia for orthopedic procedures substantially reduces pain and the need for intravenous sedation, according to new research being presented at this year's Euroanaesthesia congress (the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology) in Vienna, Austria (June 1-3).

Wrong side surgical errors substantially underreported and totally preventable
Performing a procedure on the wrong side of a patient's body, although rare, may be more common than generally thought.

Read More: Anaesthesia News and Anaesthesia Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to