National Medical Commission Bill: All you need to know

Doctors and medical students of AIIMS display placards during a strike to protest the introduction of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

On Thursday, the Rajya Sabha passed the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019, which had already been cleared by the Lok Sabha, with two amendments.

The primary intention of the new bill is to overhaul the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI), due to its shortcomings in terms of its regulatory role, composition, corruption allegations and its lack of accountability. To meet this objective, the bill rescinds the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and replaces the MCI with the NMC.

The NMC is the body that will replace the MCI as part of the Bill. The NMC's members will be nominated, and as opposed to the MCI, will consist of a diverse group of stakeholders and not solely medical practitioners, such as public health experts, social scientists, and so on. 

The main aspects of the Bill are as follows: 

Regulatory bodies: The Bill sets up four autonomous boards under the supervision of the NMC. The Under-Graduate Medical Education Board and Post-Graduate Medical Education Board are responsible for formulating curriculum,  standards and guidelines for medical education in the country. The Medical Assessment and Rating Board is in charge of holding institutions accountable for failing to maintain standards set by the UGMEB and the PGMEB. Finally, the Ethics and Medical Registration Board is responsible for maintaining a national register of all the licensed medical practitioners in the country and also regulating professional and medical conduct. 

Eligibility guidelines: Under the BIll, there will be a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for admission to under-graduate and post-graduate medical educational institutions. The Bill also introduces a National Exit Test which is a common final year under-graduate examination for medical students to obtain a license for practice, as well as for the basis of admission into post-graduate courses.

Medical Misconduct: The Bill makes the NMC an appellate authority with regard to matters of professional and ethical misconduct. This makes for the provision of judicial expertise in disputes related to ethics and misconduct in medical practice. 

Regulation of community health providers: As of January 2018, the doctor to population ratio in the country was 1:1655, as compared to the WHO standard of 1:1000. The Bill provides the NMC with the power to grant limited licenses to certain mid-level practitioners in order to fill in the gaps of availability of medical professionals.

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