The 2019 National Medical Commission Bill was passed on July 22, 2019, in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan. The Bill seeks to abolish the 1956 Indian Medical Council Act and replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a new body— the National Medical Commission.
The new bill also provides the country with a new medical system which ensures:
- availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals.
- adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals.
- periodic assessment of medical institutions.
- an effective grievance redressal mechanism.
The key features of the bill include:
- Constitution of the National Medical Commission
The law will set the National Medical Commission (NMC). State governments must set up state medical boards at the state level within three years of Bill’s passage. The NMC, appointed by the central government, will consist of 25 members. The members will include a chairperson who must be a senior medical practitioner and academic with at least 20 years of professional experience, 10 ex officio members and 14 part-time members.
- Functions of the National Medical Commission
Functions of the NMC will 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 of the regulations made under the Bill, framing guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50% of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.
- Medical Advisory Council
The Medical Advisory Council will be the primary platform through which States / Union territories will be able to present their views and concerns to the NMC.
- Autonomous boards
The Bill allows to set up autonomous boards that will be under the supervision of NMC. Each autonomous board will consist of a President and four members, appointed by the central government. the three autonomous boards are the Under-Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) and the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board (PGMEB), The Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) and The Ethics and Medical Registration Board
- Community health providers
Under the Act, some mid-level practitioners related to the modern medical profession may be given a restricted license by the NMC to practice medicine.
- National Exit Test Examination for obtaining a license
There will be a single National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to graduate and postgraduate super-specialty medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill. The Bill proposes a common final year undergraduate exam called the National Exit Test for graduate students from medical institutions to obtain a license for the practice.
Compared to the current 70 percent number of elected representatives in the Medical Council of India (MCI), just 20 percent of the NMC members will be elected representatives. The medical society has however raised objections to the bill, and doctors across the country went on strike. The strike was called by the Indian Medical Association. The doctors are quite concerned and argue that the term ‘ Community Health Provider ‘ has been vaguely defined, which will allow people without sufficient medical background to practice medicine. Bill has created National Exit Test (NEXT) and medical practitioners are not happy since they are currently required to register with a state medical council to practice, but they are not required to give any test to obtain a license. It has also been argued that a single examination is given too much weighting and may have an adverse effect on the career of medical candidates. Since the bill allows the commission to frame guidelines for the determination of fees, there is a possibility that it will increase the number of seats for which private institutes will have the discretion to determine fees. At present, in such institutes, state governments decide fees for 85 per cent of the seats.
But the NMC may also prove helpful in fighting corruption as unlike MCI, the members of NMC will have to declare their assets at the time of assuming office and when they leave. They will also have to submit a conflict of interest declaration.