Intensive Care Medicine

What is intensive care (critical care)?
Intensive Care Medicine (ICM) also referred to as critical care medicine, is that body of specialist knowledge and practice concerned with the treatment of patients, with, at risk of, or recovering from potentially life threatening failure of one or more of the body organ systems. It includes the provision of organ system support, the investigation, diagnosis, and treatment of acute illness, systems management and patient safety, ethics, end-of-life care, and support of families. 

ICM is a dynamic specialty with the responsibility for caring for the most critically ill patients in hospital. Whilst other medical specialties deal exclusively with specific organs or body systems, ICM encompasses patients with the entire spectrum of medical and surgical pathology. An ICM doctor is able to provide advanced organ support during critical illness and is responsible for co‐ordinating the care of patients on the ICU. ICM is high‐tech, life‐saving care that underpins and interacts with all other areas of the hospital.

The professional body responsible for Intensive Care Medicine is the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine ( The Faculty oversees the new curriculum for ICM which allows a doctor to train solely in ICM for the first time in the UK starting from August 2012.

It is also possible to train in ICM in combination with a partner specialty.  Training in ICM and a second specialty was originally undertaken as part of the Joint CCT.  With the new single CCT it is possible to form a Dual CCTs Programme with a range of specialties.  Initially these will be Anaesthetics, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Renal Medicine and Emergency Medicine.

Intensive care and the anaesthetist
All anaesthetists are required as part of their training programme to train in intensive care medicine. Trainees also have the option of completing Dual CCTs in Anaesthetics and Intensive care medicine. For the trainee, the benefit gained from completing Dual CCTs is that they have the career options of working in intensive care as a consultant lead, whilst still practicing anaesthesia.

Those trainees whose career aspirations are towards anaesthetic practice, the training programme requires trainees to complete a minimum of nine months training in intensive care. The nine months is broken into 3x3 month blocks which are completed in the basic level (CT1/2), intermediate level (ST3/4) and higher level (ST5/6). Additional experience in intensive care is achieved through on call duty, which is normally through the night and on weekends.