On December 29, 2017, Minister of Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda introduced the National Medical Commission Bill in the Lok Sabha, the bill aims to reform the medical education sector, which has been under scrutiny for corruption and unethical practices.

Background

In 2015 Prof. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury committee recommended structurally re-configuring the MCI’s functions and suggested the formation of a National Medical Commission. An year later in 2016, Supreme Court constituted Lodha Panel to oversee the functioning of MCI and its policy decision making. However, its recommendations were never implemented. Finally, a committee headed by Dr. Arvind Panagariya was formed to address concerns over quality of medical education. The committee proposed to repeal Indian Medical Council
Act, 1956.

Here are some of the key features of the National Medical Commission Bill

The Bill seeks to establish National Medical Commission (NMC) which will be an Umbrella body which will subsume the MCI and regulate the medical education and practice in India. It will consist of 25 members, appointed by the central government which will include representatives from Indian Council of Medical Research, and Directorate General of Health Services. Members will be provided with a tenure of four years, and they will not be eligible for extension or reappointment

Some of the functions of NMC include:

  • Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals.
  • Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure.
  • Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils.
  • Framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 40% of the seats in the private
  • medical institutions and deemed universities.
  • Recognizing medical qualifications granted by universities and medical institutions in and outside India and qualifications granted by statutory and other bodies in India.

Four autonomous boards are also proposed under NMC, which include; Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB) – Responsible for formulating standards, curriculum, guidelines, and granting recognition to medical qualifications at the undergraduate and post graduate levels respectively. A Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) which will have the power to levy monetary penalties on medical institutions (1.5 to 10 times the annual tuition fee) which fail to maintain the minimum standards as laid down by the UGMEB and the PGMEB. It will also grant permission for establishing a new medical college. An Ethics and Medical Registration (EMR) Board which will maintain a National Register of all licensed medical practitioners including the names of licensed AYUSH practitioners, and regulate professional conduct.

Also read: GOI Launches Flagship National Health Protection Scheme

The names of BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery) and BHMS (Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery) graduates are already registered with their respective councils.

Only those medical practitioners who will included in the Register will be allowed to practice medicine.

The Bill also seeks to establish State Medical Commission (SMC) in each state within three years which will have a role similar to the NMC, at the state level.

Medical Advisory Council (MAC) is also proposed under the bill, which will be a 67 member body, consisting of all the member of NMC as its ex-officio members along with members nominated by states/union territories and other government bodies like UGC etc to provide platform to states and union territories to express their views and concerns before the NMC and help in shaping the overall agenda, policy and action relating to medical education and training. The MAC will advise the NMC on measures to maintain minimum standards of medical education and research and enable equitable access to medical education.

A uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) will be conducted for admission to under-graduate medical education in all medical institutions regulated by the Bill. The NMC will specify the manner of conducting common counselling for admission in all such medical institutions.

The Bill allows practitioners of Ayurveda and other traditional Indian systems of medicine the licence to prescribe Allopathic medicines after they have passed a ‘bridge course’.

A National Licentiate Examination for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for practice and admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions will also be conducted.

Also read: Decoding The National Health Policy

To ease the regulation Medical colleges will need permission only once for establishment and recognition, with no need for annual renewal. Colleges can also increase the number of undergraduate seats and start postgraduate courses on their own.

One striking feature of the National Medical Commission Bill is that one of the clauses of the Bill calls for a joint sitting of the National Medical Commission, the Central Council of Homeopathy, and the Central Council of Indian Medicine at least once a year “to enhance the interface between homeopathy, Indian Systems of Medicine and modern systems of medicine”.

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