How to look for records of... Doctors and nurses

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

The National Archives is not the best place to find information about the careers and service of individual doctors or nurses. However, this guide will help you find the doctors’ and nurses’ records that we do hold and some of the most significant collections held in other archives. Most of the records we hold in this subject area relate to the administration and policy of health services.

The National Archives does not hold hospital patients’ records – for these you need to go to the hospitals themselves.

What do I need to know before I start?

There was no central register of civilian nurses before 1921. Before 1919, when the General Nursing Council was established, records of nurses were kept by individual nurse training schools, most of which were attached to major hospitals, where the records can often still be found. Many surviving records from hospitals are in local archives.

Health authorities are required to keep confidential records for the shortest practical time, though some hospitals may have older records. Administrative records of hospitals are normally closed for 30 years and patients’ records for 100 years.

The Medical Directory lists names and addresses of doctors from 1845. From 1858 all doctors had to be registered, with details published in the annual Medical Register.

What records can I see online?

None of the records of doctors or nurses held at The National Archives is available online. The original copies of the following online records are all held elsewhere.

Medical registers 1859-1959

Search UK Medical Registers on (£) for lists of doctors with their residence, qualification and date of registration.

Medical directories 1845-1942

Search Medical directories on (£) for lists of practising and retired doctors in Britain and British colonies. It was not compulsory for a doctor to be listed. The original directories are held at the Wellcome Library.

Medical and dental student registers 1882-1937

Search for UK Medical and dental student registers compiled by the General Medical Council on (£) for records of all students of medicine and dentistry studying in the UK between 1882 and 1937. The original registers are held at the Wellcome Library.

Nursing registers 1898-1968

Search the nursing registers held at the Royal College of Nursing on (£). Before the General Nursing Council was established in 1919 the registers were kept independently by individual hospitals and this collection brings many of those registers together, along with the central registers which were subsequently compiled.

Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses 1891-1931

Search the Roll of Nurses from the Queen’s Nursing Institute on (£) for basic career and biographical details of nurses enrolled at this community nursing charity.

Midwives Roll 1904-1959

Search the Midwives Roll on (£) for the date of enrolment, qualifications and address of midwives practicing between 1904 to 1959. The original rolls are held at the Wellcome Library.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

To access these records you will either need to visit us or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£). Alternatively, you can pay for research.

Records of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales c.1860-1984

For rolls and registers of nurses maintained by the General Nursing Council consult:

  • the printed nominal indexes in DT 10/1-56 to locate records in DT 10 (1921-1973)
  • the printed nominal indexes in DT 11/1-9 to locate records in DT 11 (1944-1973)
  • DT 12 (1973-1983) – the records in DT 12/24-26 are not on a readable format

Although the Register in DT 10 was opened in 1921 it includes details of nurses who had qualified previous to this.

Records of midwives 1872-1983

Browse the midwives rolls by year in DV 7 in our catalogue.

Records of medical staff in Poor Law Unions and workhouses 1833-1921

Browse the registers in MH 9 (1837-1921) and the correspondence and papers in MH 12 (1833-1909) in our catalogue for records of nurses and matrons working for the Poor Law Unions and in the workhouses.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Wellcome Library

Visit the Wellcome Library to view records of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (1887-1997), including lists of names submitted for appointment as Queen’s Nurses (1891-1969) and badge registers (1907-1945).

London Metropolitan Archives

Contact London Metropolitan Archives for records of London training schools for nurses, including Guy’s Hospital and the Nightingale Training School.

Lambeth Palace Library

Browse the name index to medical licences issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1535 to 1775 and held by Lambeth Palace Library.

What other resources will help me find information?


Search the Hospital Records Database to find information on the location of hospital records, including those about staff and patients, in the UK.

Consult the family history page on Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Services for advice on finding records of nurses.

Visit the website of the Royal British Nurses Association for general information on the history of nursing.

Explore the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s District Nursing 150 website for historical accounts of district nursing and nurses.

Search Munk’s Roll on the Royal College of Physicians website for obituaries of Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians dating back to the founding of the college.

Search the Historic Hospital Admission Records Project database for records of admissions to four major children’s hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, between 1852 and 1921.