The government has finalised a draft legislation to reduce the cost of private medical education, ease the burden of entrance exams on students and create a mid-level health cadre with limited rights to prescribe drugs. The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019, which began its journey in 2016 with Niti Aayog presenting the first draft, is learnt to have been finalised by the Health Ministry and is expected to be tabled for Cabinet approval soon.
The Bill, which broadly seeks to replace the Medical Council of India with a new medical education sector regulator — the NMC, for the first time, proposes a legal cap on fees charged by private medical education providers.
It’s learnt that there’s a provision to regulate fees on 50 per cent seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities.
The Bill also proposes to use the final year MBBS exam — to be conducted uniformly across all medical colleges — for three purposes: as the licensiate exam for MBBS pass outs to issue them a licence to practise medicine; as an entrance exam for postgraduate medical education; and as an entrance exam for foreign medical graduates.
Called National Exit Test, this final year MBBS exam the NMC Bill proposes will replace the existing National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for PG and Foreign Medical Graduates Test. At present, the National Board of Examinations conducts both NEET-PG and FMG test.
The amended Bill reflects the concerns of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, which had submitted its report on the Bill last year after the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha. With the dissolution of the 16th LS, the old Bill has lapsed and it needs to be revived.
It’s learnt that the new NMC Bill also proposes to create a new cadre of non-MBBS, mid-level health service providers like nursing practitioners and pharmacists with limited rights to dispense medicines.
A source says: “The mid-level medical practitioners are proposed to get limited licence to practise specified medicines in primary and preventive healthcare settings and other settings under the supervision of a medical doctor. A separate register is proposed to be maintained for this new cadre with limited drug prescription rights. The register will be maintained by the Board of Ethics under the NMC which will replace the MCI once the law is passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.”
Currently under Indian laws, only MCI-licensed and registered allopathic doctors can practise and prescribe medicine. The new NMC Bill does not have the provision for AYUSH doctors but speaks of a new mid-level health cadre to balance the gap between demand and availability of allopathic doctors.