Who we are

We represent more than 40,000 physicians worldwide - educating, improving and influencing for better health and care.

The RCP's core mission is to drive improvements in health and healthcare through advocacy, education and research.

We are an independent patient centred and clinically led organisation, that drives improvement in the diagnosis of disease, the care of individual patients and the health of the whole population both in the UK and across the globe.

Our role in shaping health policy

We draw on our members' knowledge and expertise to develop evidence-based policy in key areas of healthcare. We champion medical professionalism and leadership, promote person-centred care and drive improvements in clinical practice.

We work with government, politicians and other policy makers, royal colleges and other sector organisations to embed quality improvement in healthcare.

Policy and campaigns
Three Images Collage 720×500Px Groups Of Individual Doctors And Health Professionals

Our role in healthcare

We improve patient care directly in hospitals by setting standards in key areas of care, and measuring that care through our clinical audits and accreditation schemes. We also run quality improvement and patient safety initiatives in a variety of clinical areas.

Improving care
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Our role globally

The RCP has a truly global network, with nearly one-fifth of our members based in over 80 countries worldwide. Our work spans high-, middle- and low-income countries, ranging from accreditation work and guideline development in the Middle East to clinical skills workshops in rural Nigeria.

We develop and coordinate globally-recognised exams, and deliver a wide range of projects aimed at strengthening health systems and improving medical standards across the globe.

Our global work

Our vision

The RCP is a patient-centred and clinically led organisation whose core mission is to improve patient care and reduce illness.

Our vision is for everyone to have the best possible health and healthcare. As the leading body for physicians in the UK and internationally, we work to achieve this by:

  • influencing the way that healthcare is designed and delivered
  • promoting good health and leading the prevention of ill health across communities
  • supporting physicians to fulfil their potential.
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We value taking care

This means we behave respectfully towards people, whatever their role, position, gender or background. It means we act as representatives of the RCP, and take decisions in the interests of the organisation as a whole.

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We value learning

This means we continuously improve through active learning and honest reflection, so that we grow personally and as an organisation, while striving for excellence. We support learning and development opportunities.

Circle Plus

We value being collaborative

This means we work together towards the RCP’s vision in a collaborative and professional way, understanding that individuals bring different strengths and approaches to our work. We value diversity and each other’s contributions.

Our strategy

The RCP published a new 3-year strategy in January 2022 with three main priorities:

  • educating physicians and supporting them to fulfil their potential
  • improving health and care and leading the prevention of ill health across communities
  • influencing the way that healthcare is designed and delivered.

These priorities reflect what the RCP understands its purpose to be in realising its vision, as the leading body for physicians in the UK and internationally, of a world in which everyone has the best possible health and healthcare.

Since its foundation in 1518, the RCP’s focus has been to improve patient care and reduce illness. We drive improvement in the diagnosis of disease, the care of individual patients and the health of the whole population.

We do this through educating and supporting our members and by setting clinical and educational standards and measuring against them. In doing so, the RCP influences policymakers and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of quality healthcare.

We also have a wider duty to raise awareness of preventable illnesses such as those caused by smoking, alcohol, obesity and air pollution and to highlight the health impacts of climate change. We promote evidence-based policies that tackle risk factors for disease to encourage good public health.

The RCP is a clinically led organisation. We work in partnership with our own Patient and Carer Network and other patient groups to achieve our aims and with various health organisations and other royal colleges to enhance the quality of medical care and promote research and innovation.

Our 2022-24 strategy was produced following consultation with the RCP’s membership and its many stakeholders. Its success will rely upon continued engagement with them as well as upon a commitment to diversity and inclusion, good governance and sustainability from throughout the organisation.

Read our 2022-24 strategy

Our history

Discover the story of the RCP and its role in the development of medical practice over five centuries.

Founded in 1518 by a Royal Charter from King Henry VIII, the Royal College of Physicians of London is the oldest medical college in England, often playing a pivotal role in raising standards and shaping public health.


The Royal College of Physicians is founded by Thomas Linacre, Henry VIII's physician.

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Henry VIII Royal Charter


The 1600s brought new homes and groundbreaking discoveries for the RCP, which had to survive plague, burglary and the Great Fire of London!

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Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, 1618, 2Nd Edition


A changing of the times means the RCP has to evolve throughout the Enlightenment period.

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Frontispiece, Pharmacopoea Almeriana Galeno Chymicas, 1723


One step forward and two steps back for RCP, as the College publishes the definitive classification of diseases, but moves to exclude women.

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Adult Male Nervous System, Anatomical Table


The RCP survives two world wars to move into the modern era,  helping to shape the new National Health Service and publishing a groundbreaking report on the dangers of smoking. At the beginning of the century women are allowed to be licensed for the first time, and in 1989 the College appoints its first female president, Dame Margaret Turner-Warwick.

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Turner Warwick, Dame Margaret


The new millennium sees the College celebrate 500 years of the RCP.

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RCP500 Charter Image
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