Posted 20 March 2012 - 07:01 pm
It was an enormously complex area. Many doctors volunteered early in the war, but during the first half of 1915 when the War Office appealed for a further 2,000 medical officers, the profession saw it as a real problem - in theory few doctors could be easily released from their civil duties. To regulate the admission of MOs to the military forces, and to protect the civil population, the profession was allowed to be self-regulating, and a 'Central Medical War Committee' was formed, ' to organize the medical profession in such a way as to enable the Government to use every medical practictioner fit to serve the country in such a manner as to turn his qualification to the best possible use.'
In April 1916 the Central Medical Committees took on the responsibility of dealing with claims for exemption and set up special tribunals. In December 1916 the committees mobilized the entire medical profession 'for such service as each member of it was competent to give,' but in April 1917 the War Office sent calling-up notices to all doctors in the country under the age of 41without consulting the professional committees first. By January 1917, more than half the medical profession had been called up for military service - 12,363 of them. This left the civil population of the UK in a very poor position with regard to medical care. The UKs medical services, both civil and military, were just about teetering on the brink of collapse by the spring of 1917 when they were relieved by America's entry into the war.
The detail of this whole period is very well covered in Volume one of the Official History, Medical Services (from where the above brief details are taken).