The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is a professional organisation of surgeons located in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, within the William Henry Playfair designed Surgeons’ Hall and adjoining buildings.
It is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world and traces its origins to 1505 when the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh were formally incorporated as a craft guild of Edinburgh. The Barber-Surgeons of Dublin was the first medical corporation in Ireland or Britain, having been incorporated in 1446 (by Royal Decree of Henry VI).
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is the oldest and largest of the UK surgical Royal Colleges, and one of the largest of all the UK medical Royal Colleges. First incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505, the College has been at the vanguard of surgical innovation and developments for over 500 years.
Today we are a modern, thriving, global network of medical professionals with memberships approaching 25,000 professionals who live and work in more than 100 countries around the world. 15,000 of these live and work in the UK and 80% of that figure are based in England and Wales. Our membership includes people at every stage of their career, from medical students through to trainees, consultants and those who have retired from practice.
With our interest in professional standards, the College’s primary role – and the main concern of our Fellows and Members – is to ensure the safety of our patients and provide them with the best possible care. We do this by championing the highest standards of surgical and dental practice; through our provision of courses and educational programmes, training, examinations and Continuous Professional Development; our liaison with external medical bodies; and by influencing healthcare policy across the UK.
Our main campus in Edinburgh, which includes a dedicated skills laboratory, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums, College Library, function and meeting facilities, a 77 bedroom hotel, postgraduate accommodation, and office space for over 140 staff, was joined in 2014 by our second site in Birmingham’s prestigious Colmore Row. This new base offers office space, facilities for events and courses and spaces for our membership to meet and take part in the College’s activities.
In 1505, the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh were formally incorporated as a Craft Guild of the city and this recognition is embodied in the Seal of Cause (or Charter of Privileges) which was granted to the Barber Surgeons by the Town Council of Edinburgh on 1 July 1505.
The Seal of Cause conferred various privileges and imposed certain crucially important duties, the most important of these that all apprentices should be literate, that every master should have full knowledge of anatomy and surgical procedures and that this knowledge should be tested at the end of apprenticeship, all clauses still relevant to surgical practice and the College today.
Dentistry has been an important part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh since the Incorporation of Barber Surgeons were granted their Seal of Cause by Edinburgh Town Council in 1505, though it remained largely unregulated in Edinburgh until the middle of the 19th century. In 1879 the Diploma of Licentiate in Dental Surgery (LDS) was introduced and recognised for admission to the Dentist’s Register. In 1921, the Dentists Act raised standards, and only dentists who had been trained in a dental school could be admitted to the Register and allowed to practice dentistry.
To be admitted as a member to the college, trainee surgeons are required to sit and pass MRCS Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons examinations, which usually happens in the first or second years of surgical training. Since September 2008, the MRCS has become an Intercollegiate Examination, with a syllabus, format and content common to all three colleges in the UK (The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, The Royal College of Surgeons of England and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow).
The College conducts a number of other examinations, including dental examinations, immediate medical care examinations and sport and exercise medicine.
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh runs a large range of educational events and courses for medical students interested in surgery, through to surgical trainees and consultant specialists. Many of these courses are held in the Surgical Skills Laboratory on site in Edinburgh, but the College does also conduct courses abroad to address particular needs.
They offer distance learning courses through their Department of eLearning. The Post-Graduate Certificate in Remote and Offshore Medicine (CertROM) is an example of a course that consists entirely of online modules, although for the diploma (DipROM) attendance of a workshop is also required.
The Museum linked to the College is open to the public and houses one of the largest collections of pathological artifacts in Britain. The museum dates from 1699 and underwent major improvements in 2015.