Described as one of the biggest reforms for medical education in the country, the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Rajya Sabha by voice vote on August 1, 2019. The NMC Bill seeks to replace the 63-year-old corruption-plagued Medical Council of India (MCI) with setting up of a National Medical Commission and repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, which led to the formation of the MCI.
Speaking on the Bill, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan said the legislation would go down in history as one of the best reforms ending ‘inspector raj’ in medical education. The Bill aims to usher in major changes in the medical education sector.
The Lok Sabha had on July 29, 2019, passed the National Medical Commission Bill. The functioning of MCI has been under scrutiny for long, especially with regard to grant of permissions to medical colleges.
The NMC Bill was first introduced in Parliament in December 2017. Vardhan noted that NMC Bill 2019 is an improved version of the one brought as an ordinance in 2017.
Key features of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill
1. Within three years of the passage of the legislation, the Bill proposes to establish a medical commission, both at the national and state levels.
2. The NMC Bill proposes a common final year MBBS exam, to be known as the National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to postgraduate medical courses and for obtaining licence to practise medicine. It would also act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates.
3. As a result, the NEET common counselling and NEXT would be applicable for admission to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). That means, admissions to all AIIMS, JIMPER Pondicherry and PGI Chandigarh will be through NEET to ensure uniformity throughout the medical entrance procedure, including examinations to secure seats at premier institutes.
4. Section 32 of the NMC Bill provides for the licensing of 350,000 unqualified non-medical persons to practise modern medicine.
5. A ‘Search Committee’ will recommend names to the central government for the post of chairperson, and part-time members.
6. NMC will be an umbrella regulatory body comprising 25 members appointed by the central government. It will include representatives from the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Directorate General of Health Services.
7. The commission will oversee organisations that will control undergraduate and postgraduate education and monitor standards in medical colleges and grant permissions for new colleges.
8. The NMC will have four autonomous boards — Undergraduate Medical Education Board, Postgraduate Medical Education Board, Medical Assessment and Rating Board and Ethical and Medical Registration Board.
9. NMC’s tenure will be of four years. The Medical Council of India meets at least once a year while the National Medical Commission will meet every quarter. The NMC board members need to declare their assets and liabilities at the time of entering and demitting office.
Functions of NMC
(i) Framing policies to regulate medical institutions and medical professionals
(ii) Assess the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure
(iii) Frame guidelines to regulate fees and all other charges for 50 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.
Uproar over NMC Bill
The medical fraternity fears that the NMC Bill would lead to a deterioration in medical education and degradation of healthcare services. The Opposition members object to provisions in the NMC Bill, such as exit exam and replacing elected members with nominated members in the proposed commission. They allege that the legislation is against the spirit of federalism.