Looking back: 1968 – a vital year

The history of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

As part of our 180th anniversary celebrations in 2021, we looked 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.

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

What happened in 1968?

Our path to becoming RCPsych was 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 with some people, 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 them for three reasons, the Royal College exams were costly, the failure rate was high, and the opportunity to standardise training throughout the country was being ignored. Here’s Professor Sir David Goldberg:

Tension between the ‘seniors’ and the juniors prevailed throughout spring and until the AGM in July. When the AGM was held in Plymouth instead of London, some felt it was deliberate.

The RMPA leadership eventually listened to the juniors' concerns about establishing both training and an examination. This also set an important precedent, for the new College to listen to trainee psychiatrists.  In 1971 the Royal Medico-Psychological Association became the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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