National Medical Commission Bill 2019: Essential information Part 1

The National Medical Commission Bill 2019 was recently passed in both houses of India’s Parliament. Subsequently, it received the President’s assent on 08.08.2019, and will be notified in due course of time. This mini-series of articles describes the salient features of the legislation, and attempts to clear some of the doubts surrounding the same.

Background Information:

In 2017, a National Medical Commission Bill was introduced in Parliament, but resulted in massive protests across the country. This caused the Bill to be referred to a Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee. This body submitted its recommendations in March 2018, and the Bill was revised accordingly. The Bill lapsed with the dissolution of parliament. The incumbent government introduced the revised legislation as National Medical Commission Bill 2019 in the ongoing session of Parliament.

Key Messages:

The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Medical Commission, with headquarters at New Delhi.

Composition of the Commission:

  • 1 Chairperson
  • 10 ex-officio Members (they will represent either the Central Government, or one of the many Central Government institutions listed)
  • 14 part-time Members (11 of these will be nominated by States and Union Territories, and will typically be Vice-Chancellors of universities).

Note: There is an allegation that the Commission will exclusively comprise of central government nominees, with states having no ‘voice’ in it. However, 14/24 (58.3%) Members (excluding the Chairperson) will represent states and Union Territories. Moreover, States and Union Territories may submit their views and concerns to the Commission through their representatives in the Medical Advisory Council.

Transparency and restrictions on employment

Chairperson and all members must declare assets and liabilities; and professional and commercial engagement as prescribed. These will be published on the website of the Commission.

Two year embargo (after demitting office) on accepting any kind of employment in a private medical institution whose matter was dealt with directly or indirectly by person concerned.

Meetings of the Commission

Should meet at least every 3 months.

One half of the total Members including the Chairperson will constitute the quorum.

All decisions will be decided by majority vote of all those present and voting.

Powers and Functions of Commission

Lay down policies, regulations for maintaining high standards in medical education

Lay down policies for regulating

  • medical institutions
  • medical research
  • medical professionals

Assess healthcare requirements; and prepare a roadmap to meet them

Make necessary regulations for proper functioning of the

  • Commission
  • Autonomous Boards
  • State Medical Councils

Ensure coordination among Autonomous Boards

Take measures to ensure compliance to guidelines by State Medical Councils

Exercise appellate jurisdiction with respect to the decisions of Autonomous Boards

Lay down policies, codes to ensure professional ethics; promote ethical conduct during provision of medical care

Frame guidelines to regulate fees of 50% seats in private medical institutions and deemed to be universities under this Act

Perform other such functions as may be prescribed.

National Examination

National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) to be conducted for admission to

  • undergraduate (MBBS) and
  • postgraduate super-specialty medical education (DM, MCh)

National Exit Test (NExT)

  • common final year undergraduate (MBBS) medical examination to be conducted through a designated authority
  • to grant licence to practice medicine
  • for enrolment in State Register/ National Register
  • for admission to postgraduate broad specialty medical education (MD/MS)
  • shall become operational within three years of date of commencement of the Act
  • those with foreign medical qualification will have to pass this for enrolment in State/ National Register, and obtain licence to practice medicine

Note: There are claims that students will have only one chance at the NExT to qualify for postgraduate broad specialty courses. This is mischievous since the specific rules will be laid down by the National Medical Commission (NMC)- they are not part of the Act. Since the NMC itself is not in existence as of today, no such rule exists either. Similarly, there are concerns regarding the content of the exam itself, as it will assess both theoretical aspects and skills. The Act does not state how this will be undertaken, and has left it for the NMC to determine.

Useful Links:

Link to NMC Bill 2019 (as passed by Lok Sabha on 29.07.2019):

https://www.nhp.gov.in/NHPfiles/185-C_2019_LS_Eng.pdf

Link to Frequently Asked Questions on NMC Bill 2019:

http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=192491

Links to news articles referred to within the article:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/president-ram-nath-kovind-signs-nmc-bill-into-a-law-nmc-to-be-constituted-within-six-months/articleshow/70591981.cms

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/govt-plans-to-re-introduce-national-medical-commission-bill/article27762134.ece

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