The word ‘trauma’ describes the disease entity resulting from physical injury. Trauma is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and deaths due to injury look set to increase. As early as the 1970s, it became evident that centralisation of resources and expertise could reduce the mortality rate from serious injury and that organisation of trauma care delivery into formal systems could improve outcome further. Internationally, trauma systems have evolved in various forms, with widespread reports of mortality and functional outcome benefits when major trauma management is delivered in this way. The management of major trauma in England is currently undergoing significant change. The London Trauma System began operating in April 2010 and others throughout England became operational this year. Similar systems exist internationally and continue to be developed. Anaesthetists have been and continue to be involved with all levels of trauma care delivery, from the provision of pre-hospital trauma and retrieval teams, through to chronic pain management and rehabilitation of patients back into society. This review examines the international development of major trauma care delivery and the components of a modern trauma system.