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The General Medical Council

Legislation regulating the qualifications of practitioners in medicine and surgery

After a lengthy campaign to abolish quackery, the Medical Act 1858 established the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom (later the General Medical Council) and some control over the syllabus and those who could examine students.

The council was to consist of representatives from the:

  • Royal College of Physicians
  • Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • Apothecaries Society of London
  • universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and London
  • College of Physicians of Edinburgh
  • College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

There were also ad-hoc appointments from specified institutions and six people were to be appointed by the Queen.

The Act required the council to appoint a registrar, who was responsible for keeping an up-to-date record of those registered to practice. The registrar was also required to publish the list annually.

The Act gave powers to the council to remove registered medical practitioners from the list if they were judged to have been 'guilty of infamous conduct in any professional respect'.

Later developments

The Medical Act 1950 renamed the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom to the General Medical Council. The Act also included the establishment of a disciplinary committee and the granting of the right of appeal, as well as introducing a compulsory post-qualification training period.


House of Commons.
The Medical Act 1858.
Legislation.gov.uk; 1858.

The British Medical Journal.
The Medical Act, 1950.
Br Med J.
1950; 2(4674): 337–338.