The Lok Sabha has passed the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020, to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals in India.
It was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 16.
While introducing the Bill, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that whereas doctors, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, etc, are regulated by their own regulatory bodies, a proper structure for development and maintenance of standards of services and education of allied and healthcare professionals through a National Regulatory Body has been long overdue.
He added that the instant Bill has potential to create paradigm shift in healthcare delivery by recognising specialised skills, contributions of more than 56 types of healthcare workers.
Such 56 category of allied healthcare professions such as Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Ophthalmic Sciences, Nutrition Sciences, Trauma, Burn Care Surgical/ Anesthesia related Technology, etc., will be clubbed into 10 categories.
The Bill also contemplates establishment of a National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions and Councils at the State-level, to oversee such professions.
The Bill specifies Allied and healthcare professions in the Schedule annexed to the Act.
An Allied health professional includes an associate, technician or technologist who is trained to perform any technical and practical task to support diagnosis and treatment of illness, disease, injury or impairment, and to support implementation of any healthcare treatment and referral plan recommended by a medical, nursing or any other healthcare professional.
Such professional should have obtained a diploma or degree under this Bill, the duration of which should be at least 2,000 hours spread over a period of 2-4 years.
A Healthcare professional includes a scientist, therapist or other professional who studies, advises, researches, supervises or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic or promotional health services.
Such professional should have obtained a degree under this Act, the duration of which should be at least 3,600 hours spread over a period of 3-6 years.
National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions
The Bill proposes to set up a National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions to consist of
- a Chairperson;
- a Vice-Chairperson;
- 5 members at Joint Secretary level representing various Central Ministries/ their Departments;
- 1 representative from the Directorate General of Health Services;
- 3 Deputy Directors or Medical Superintendents appointed on a rotational basis from amongst medical institutions including AIIMS, Delhi and AIIPMR, Mumbai;
- 12 part-time members representing State Councils, charitable institutions, etc.
The Commission will perform the following functions:
- frame policies and standards for regulating education and practice,
- create and maintain an online Central Register of all registered professionals,
- provide basic standards of education, courses, curriculum, staff qualifications, examination, training, maximum fee payable for various categories, and
- provide for a uniform entrance and exit examination, among others.
The Commission is also required to constitute a Professional Council for every recognised category of allied and healthcare professions. Such Councils will consist of a President and 4-24 members, representing each profession in the recognised category.
Apart from a National Commission, the Bill also contemplates establishment of Councils at State-level, within six months from the passage of the Bill, to regulate allied and healthcare professionals.
The State Councils will consist of:
- a Chairperson with at least 25 years of experience in the field;
- 1 member representing medical sciences in the state government;
- 2 members representing state medical colleges;
- 2 members representing charitable institutions;
- 2 members from each of the recognised categories of allied and healthcare professions, nominated by the state government.
The State Councils will:
- enforce professional conduct and code of ethics to be observed by allied healthcare professionals,
- maintain respective State Registers,
- inspect allied and healthcare institutions, and
- ensure uniform entry and exit examinations.
That apart, the State Council has also been empowered to give prior permission for establishing a new institution, opening new courses, increasing the admission capacity, or admitting a new batch of students to existing institutions.
If such permission is not sought, then any qualification granted to a student from such an institution will not be recognised under the Bill.
Chapter VII of the Bill deals with offences and penalties. It prescribes that no person is allowed to practice as a qualified allied and healthcare practitioner other than those enrolled in a State Register or the National Register. Any person who contravenes this provision will be punished with a fine of Rs 50,000.
Cognizance of offences
Clause 60 in the Bill provides: No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Bill except upon a complaint made by the Central Government, the State Government, the Commission, or the State Council, as the case may be. It further ousts a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate from trying cases under this law.
"The paramedics and allied healthcare workers are critical part of the medical profession and their contribution is similar to doctors, if not more. The group of allied professionals is large and the bill is trying to regulate this field, by providing dignity to their roles," the Health Minister said today.