By Manali Joshi
The Union Cabinet cleared the National Medical Commission Bill 2017 which, once enacted, will replace the existing Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, in what many see as a huge step forward towards reforming the way medical education is regulated in India. It is believed that it will act as a regulator that will do away with “heavy-handed regulatory control” over medical institutions and will also bring in a national licentiate examination.
Some of the members of the Medical Council of India were alleged to have taken bribes to facilitate accreditation of medical colleges, or to accelerate the process. Thus, the National Medical Council (NMC) aims to get around this problem by bringing reforms in the medical education sector which has been under scrutiny for corruption and unethical practices. The Bill proposes a government-nominated Chairman, and Members, who will be selected by a committee under the Cabinet Secretary. NMC will consist of 25 members of which 12 will be ex-officio members, including four presidents of boards from leading medical institutions such as AIIMS and the ICMR; 11 part-time members, a Chairman and Member-Secretary.
Objectives of the Bill
The NMC aims to be less deterrent for non-compliance with the maintenance of standards by the medical institutions. Unlike the existing system of not renewing permissions in case of serious infractions of such an institution, the NMC has come up with a monetary penalty ranging up to 10 times the annual tuition fee for not complying with requisite standards. The new commission will also have the power to frame guidelines for fees for up to 40% seats in private colleges and deemed universities.
At present, the Medical Council of India (MCI) gives permission for the establishment and recognition of medical colleges, renews their licenses and approves increases in intake of students. Once the new Bill is implemented, colleges do not need to renew licences, and can increase student intake on their own. They can also start post-graduate courses on their own, without seeking permission from the NMC. The new Bill looks at moving to a less regulated environment in medical education, in favour of “outcome-based monitoring”. Earlier, the MCI approval was needed for establishing, renewing, recognising and increasing seats in a UG course. Under the new proposal, permissions need only be sought for establishment and recognition.
Currently, a candidate is required to clear National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) to get admission in a medical college, then complete five years of MBBS course and gets registered in the State Medical Council to practice the medical profession. The NMC Bill, hence, has decided to introduce a national licentiate examination in place of NEET, for students to clear to become a medical practitioner or get entry into post-graduation studies.
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