The good old days
Medical education in the United Kingdom 1800-50
- By: Daniel Ward, Stephen Leveson
With the UK government proposing yet another round of reform and reorganisation in the NHS, it is worth remembering that medicine and medical education have been on a tumultuous journey to reach their present form.
Medical training in the early 19th century was a diverse and inconsistent affair. Although no formal bars existed to prevent anyone from practising medicine, by the early decades of the 19th century a defined social structure of qualified practitioners had developed. Each practitioner required a licence from their respective professional body: the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, or the Society of Apothecaries.1
Physicians were university educated men and, as such, were considered the most knowledgeable and highly regarded of all medical practitioners.
Many graduated from Edinburgh, at that time the most prestigious British university for medical education.
In 1848, the final examination took 17½ hours. It comprised 12 sections, including chemistry,