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Apothecaries Act 1815

Increasing standardisation of training

By the early 19th century, medical professionals could be broadly divided into three branches:

  • physicians
  • surgeons
  • apothecaries (later becoming general practitioners).

The 1815 Apothecaries Act gave the Society of Apothecaries the responsibility for organising education and training requirements. It made the Society of Apothecaries the main examining body for medicine. Previously, training had taken place through apprenticeships but there had been a lack of standardisation.

The Act: required apothecaries to undertake a 5-year apprenticeship; required holders of the Licence of Apothecaries (LSA) to dispense physicians' prescriptions; and made it compulsory for dispensers to hold the LSA. The LSA did not cover surgery.

Private schools were established near the most famous hospitals in London. Increasingly, hospital governors allowed staff to take pupils and to teach anatomy in dissection rooms, leading to the emergence of hospital schools in parallel to the private schools. Students began their education as apprentices and paid a fee to become a pupil or a 'dresser' to leading surgeons.


Rivett G.
The Development of the London Hospital System, 1823-2015.
nhshistory.net; nd.

Rivin JJ.
Getting a medical qualification in England in the nineteenth century.
Medical Historian.
1997; 9: 56–63.