New Delhi: In an effort to bootstrap quality of services in a raft of businesses that have been either unregulated or loosely regulated in the country so far, the Quality Council of India, or QCI, a national body for laying standards, has issued guidelines for schools, pharmacies, blood banks and Ayurvedic hospitals.
This set of standards, which will be used to accredit institutions, will set operating and quality guidelines in the absence of a regulatory regime, allow service providers benchmark themselves to these standards to differentiate from competition, and help customers choose players of their choice.
“Everybody is talking of quality, but nobody has a clue how to achieve it. QCI then becomes a very interesting body for them to approach,” said Anil Jauhari, adviser to the council, set up in 1997 under a public-private partnership between the ministry of commerce and industry bodies such as Confederation of Indian Industry and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
QCI laid down accreditation norms for schools in December 2007 and for blood banks in January. It is currently holding awareness campaigns to popularize them. Its hospital accreditation programme has certified 10 hospitals and is examining another 60.
It created standards for environment impact assessment, or EIA, consultants, whose services are mandated for manufacturing, mining and power projects, in March 2007. It has already registered Chennai-based ABC Environ Solutions Pvt. Ltd, an environmental engineering company involved in conducting EIAs, and state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd’s Pollution Control Research Institute. The council is processing another eight applications.
“Increasingly, (the) concept of quality is being applied to newer areas, creating a need for marriage of domain knowledge with expertise in conformity and assessment. That’s why we engage experts from that field itself to help us frame standards,” said Jauhari. He is getting enquiries from new sectors—FM radio operators and private security firms.
Next on the radar are accreditation standards for more than half-a-million retail medicine shops, besides dental centres and diagnostic imaging centres.
Norms for retail pharmacies will help quality in delivery of health care services, one expert said. “Drug manufacturing and research is only one half of the value chain, and by focusing on them alone, we are completely ignoring drug distribution, which can also cause availability and quality concerns,” said Prafull D. Sheth, vice-president International Pharmaceutical Federation.
“Downstream processes have a lot of players now with layers such as wholesalers, stockist, sub-stockists, superstockists, special stockists, forwarding and carry agents besides retailers.” Stricter norms will help reduce the extent of fake drugs and improve post- marketing drug surveillance, he said.
Indian Pharmaceutical Association, a professional body of pharmacists, conducted a pilot project last year with 26 pharmacies in Mumbai and 19 in Goa, developing 12 standards—ranging from facilities, documentation, handling of prescription, inventory management, patent counselling and reporting adverse drug events—across 63 parameters and developed what it calls good pharmacy practices.
A chemists lobby said it wants concessions from the government to help them adopt these standards. “Quality upgrade is a problem given the margins we work on and infrastructural snags like irregular electric supply. If the government helps us, more chemists can sign up for accreditation,” said Sandeep Nangia, president of the Delhi chapter of the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists.
The industry and even the government departments have welcomed the QCI initiatives. The National AIDS Control Organisation, or Naco, being one of them. “In fact, we will be proactively asking public and private blood banks to adopt these standards,” said K. Sujatha Rao, Naco secretary general, whose office acts as the technical adviser to the health ministry for blood banks. Quality standards are low on priority at India’s some 2,200 blood banks and instances of infections such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B and C through transfusions are not rare.
QCI’s school accreditation programme, too, is gathering steam. Council’s secretary general Girdhar J. Gyani said there will be lag between the first batch of schools taking on the prescribed standards and delivering results. Some 900 Kendriya Vidyalayas, part of a Union government-run school system, have decided to adopt these standards and then go in for accreditation.
“The same is being considered by 565 Navodaya schools (also state-run), though it is yet to be finalized. We are also helping 11 New Delhi Municipal Council schools with the standards,” said Gyani.
India has nearly 220 million school-going children attending over 1.02 million private and public schools, according to analyst firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, and makes for a $20 billion (Rs79,800crore) business. But, the business is mostly unregulated.
Pathways World School’s director Prabhat Jain said infrastructure and syllabus can be easily standardized, but it was “the quality of educational transaction” between a teacher and students that was crucial, yet not audited.
“Any such (QCI-like) initiative is welcome and is bound to have a humble beginning. But, ultimately the goal is to address the quality of educational transaction,” said Jain, adding that he was open to have his school accredited by the council.