Government clears NMC Bill to revamp medical education system

NEW DELHI: The Union cabinet on Wednesday cleared a bill to set up a National Medical Commission (NMC), which will have responsibilities such as approving and assessing medical colleges, conducting common MBBS entrance and exit examinations and regulating course fees.

The National Medical Commission Bill 2019 proposes to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. NMC will replace the Medical Council of India (MCI), which was dissolved in 2010 following corruption charges.

The common final year MBBS exam will now be known as National Exit Test (NEXT) to start medical practice, seek admissions to post-graduate medical courses and as a screening test for foreign medical graduates.

The bill also seeks to make the national medical entrance exam, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and NEXT applicable to Institutes of National Importance (INIs) such as the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to ensure uniform standards.

The bill, which was first presented in 2017, lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, and will now be tabled in the ongoing session.

“At present, we are having NEET and entrance exams for AIIMS. Now, we will also have an exit exam that will be for everyone for getting a licence to practice medicine in the country," Union minister Prakash Javadekar said at a cabinet briefing.

NMC will also regulate fees and all other charges for 50% seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities. The Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) under NMC will assess medical colleges and develop a system for ranking them.

“These measures through an autonomous commission will ensure a transparent admission process and also bring down the admission fee, as we have long been talking about fee regulation in private colleges," said Javadekar.

Apart from MARB, there will be three other autonomous boards under NMC, the Under-Graduate Medical Education Board, the Post-Graduate Medical Education Board, and the Ethics and Medical Registration Board. NMC, with the help of these boards, will ensure a dynamic and modern educational environment, decreasing the emphasis on physical infrastructure, achieving the norms in global standards and an effective grievance redressal mechanism, according to an official statement.

The bill also proposes to set up a Medical Advisory Council as a separate entity. It will serve as the primary platform through which the states will put forward their views and concerns before the NMC and help shape the overall agenda in medical education and training. Autonomous boards will be under state medical councils.

The strength of autonomous boards under state medical councils has been increased from 3 to 5, including 2 part-time members. One of them will be a doctor selected by the state government and the other will be an doctor chosen by the State Medical Council.

“The Medical Assessment and Rating Board will grant permission for new medical colleges, starting PG courses and increasing seats based on the standards set by the UG and PG boards. The annual renewal permission for new medical colleges before recognition is being done away with," according to the statement.

The health ministry has been pushing the NMC Bill amid resistance from the Indian Medical Association, which has claimed that replacing MCI with another body may just result in people coming up with new forms of corruption.