The Royal College of Physicians was founded in 1518 through a Royal Charter by King Henry VIII, making it the oldest medical college in England. Over the centuries, it has often played a significant role in shaping public health and raising standards.

High Society Beginnings

From the very beginning, the Royal College of Physicians’ patients were from the highest echelons of society. Thomas Linacre, the college’s first president, was keen to create an academic body for physicians as opposed to the sort of trade guild that regulated apothecaries and surgeons. He wanted physicians to be an educated elite within the medical world, with a degree usually required to gain a license to practice. Candidates also had to take an oral examination to demonstrate that they were classically educated in a range of subjects. To obtain full voting membership at the college (a fellowship), candidates were required to hold a degree from Cambridge or Oxford.

In 1698 the college opened the first public dispensary in England, which provided medicine to the poor free of charge, while in the 19th century the Royal College of Physicians’ expertise was called upon by successive governments regarding the introduction of medical reforms, including the Medical Act of 1858.

The College’s Vision

Today, the Royal College of Physicians is a clinically led, patient-centred organisation committed to reducing illness and improving patient care and is the leading body for physicians both in the UK and internationally. The college works hard to promote good health, lead the prevention of poor health in communities, influence how healthcare is designed and delivered, and support physicians to fulfil their potential.

In terms of values, the Royal College of Physicians is committed to learning, being collaborative and taking care. These values underpin how the college behaves and how staff members interact with each other, and inform its focus on working together to improve patient care and achieve its vision.

Royal College of Physicians Specialties

The college, of which Professor of Neurology Marios Politis is a former attendee, provides opportunities for specialties to come together and advocate with a united voice on issues that affect the entire profession. There are 30 different specialities within the organisation, ranging in size and scope from geriatric medicine through to nuclear medicine, the latter of which uses radioactive materials to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

The Royal College of Physicians also works closely with specialty associations and individual specialties through its Medical Specialty Boards, Joint Specialty Committees and regular meetings with specialty representatives.