With NMC, there is hope for greater autonomy in medical education

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that the historic reform will steer medical education towards a transparent, qualitative and accountable system
Contrary to its predecessor, the newly constituted National Medical Commission (NMC) promises greater autonomy and accountability in medical education, say stakeholders.

After Parliament passed the NMC Act 2019 last year, the new commission for medical education along with four autonomous boards was constituted with effect from Friday. With this, the Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act, 1956, stands repealed and replaced by NMC Act 2019. Along with NMC, the four Autonomous Boards of UG and PG Medical Education Boards, Medical Assessment and Rating Board, and Ethics and Medical Registration Board have also been constituted to help NMC in day-to-day functioning.

“With NMC, every aspect and vertical of medical education now comes under one roof. The erstwhile MCI inspections have also been done away with. There are now clearer norms for setting up new medical colleges with reduced bureaucracy. This will usher in greater autonomy and accountability,” said Hemant Mathur, dean, academics, in Faculty of Medicine at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that the historic reform will steer medical education towards a transparent, qualitative and accountable system.

“The basic change that has happened is that the regulator is now ‘selected’ on merit, as opposed to an ‘elected’ regulator. Men and women with impeccable integrity, professionalism, experience and stature have been now placed at the helm to steer the medical education reforms further,” it added.

According to the ministry, MBBS seats has increased over the last six years by 48 per cent from around 54,000 in 2014 to 80,000 in 2020. The postgraduate (PG) seats have increased by 79 per cent from 24,000 to 54,000 in the same duration.
The MCI had drawn flak for corruption with the medical education fraternity facing frequent inspections over continuing licence. This has been done away under the NMC. The education industry believes the new commission will only facilitate setting up of more credible colleges.

“This will not only bring the entire medical education under one umbrella but also pave way for collaborations with global institutions in education and research,” said Pratik Patel, dean, NHL Medical College.

The key functions of NMC will be further streamlining regulations, rating of institutions, human resource assessment and focus on research.

Provisions under the new council include fee regulation on 50 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities. Industry experts believe this could make private medical education cheaper.

Also, the final year MBBS exam now carries three purposes. Apart from being the licensiate exam for MBBS graduates to issue them licences for practising medicine, the final year exam will now act as an entrance exam for PG education and for foreign graduates. The entrance test, christened the National Exit Test (NEXT), will also be applicable to institutes of national importance such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), besides the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test.

Further, the NMC will make guidelines for a new cadre of non-MBBS mid-level health service providers such as nurses and pharmacists with limited rights to dispense medicines. The ministry has termed them “community health providers”.

S C Sharma, former head of ear-nose-throat (ENT) department at AIIMS Delhi, has been selected as NMC chairperson for three years. The council will also have 10 ex-officio members that include presidents of the four autonomous boards; Jagat Ram, director Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh; Rajendra A Badwe, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai; and Surekha Kishore, executive director, AIIMS, Gorakhpur.

Marred with corruption charges, the MCI was replaced in 2018 with a Board of Governors, chaired by V K Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog. “The NMC will carry forward the reforms initiated by the Board of Governors under Dr V K Paul,” the ministry said on Friday.

The NMC will work on modalities of the common final year exam after MBBS or NEXT to serve for both registration and PG entrance; prepare guidelines for fee regulation by private medical colleges; and develop standards for community health providers to serve in primary healthcare with limited practising licence.

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