Celebrating 180 years

This year we’re celebrating 180 years of providing mental health care. On this page we look back on a vital period in 1968 when junior psychiatrists were in conflict with the establishment of the Royal Medico Psychological Association over the membership of the new College. 

Negotiations that ensued after this eventful year culminated in the establishment of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

During the year we’ll be marking our long history first from 1841 as the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane, and then from 1971 as the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in a number of ways, including organising exhibitions, competitions, and holding conferences and other events like webinars.

You can read more about the different eras before and after 1968 in our History of the College section.

What happened in 1968?

Our path to becoming RCPsych is fraught with controversy. 1968 was a year of uprising in Europe, and the RMPA wasn’t exempt from its own protests.

Proposals to become ‘royal’ didn’t sit well, but not totally because of the pomp and ceremony but because transformation to seek a royal charter didn’t take into consideration an opportunity to modernise training and standards according to some psychiatric trainees.

Hearing from the people who were there

The key events - a timeline

In more detail

The Petition Group were young doctors of the day who thought that the proposals to change the RMPA to RCPsych would replicate the style of other Royal Colleges and entry would focus on a single exam without thinking about standardised training. This upset people for two reasons, the exams were costly, and the failure rate was high, and the opportunity to standardise training throughout the country had been ignored. Here’s Professor Sir David Goldberg:

Tension between the ‘seniors’ and the juniors prevailed all Summer and when the AGM was held in Plymouth instead of London, some felt it was deliberate.

Some of dissidents say that a change of leadership helped resolve the issue, in any case, they were listened to, and by 1971 the Royal Medico-Psychological Association became the Royal College of Psychiatrists.