New Delhi: Several significant programmes under the National Health Mission (NHM) are likely to be impacted because of a shortfall of funds in 2018-19.

The ministry of health and family welfare got an allocation of only Rs30,129.61 crore for 2018-19 against a projected plan outlay of Rs34,882.32 crore under NHM for the current year. The deficit of around Rs4,752.71 crore may affect a range of activities under the mission such as upgradation of hospitals, expansion of the vaccines programme and implementing interventions for non-communicable diseases.

The ministry of health and family welfare recently expressed concerns before a parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare that the shortfall in allocations for NHM for 2018-19 vis-à-vis its projected demand for funds will adversely impact the major health initiatives.

While the revised estimates (RE) allocation for NHM programmes for 2017-18 was Rs30,786.56 crore, the parliamentary committee said the current year’s allocation, i.e. Rs30,129.61 crore for 2018-19, is abysmally less.

A few of the initiatives under the NHM are upscaling of existing initiatives such as strengthening of health facilities to Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS), establishing sub-centres, primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs), expansion of new pneumococcal vaccines, measles-rubella and rotavirus vaccines to all states, and implementation of new interventions particularly those relating to non-communicable diseases and strengthening of district hospitals.

“The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 has envisaged a target of 2.5% of GDP as health expenditure by the government both Centre and states by 2025. However, keeping in view the scaling down of various activities due to reduced budgetary allocations, and the central share in health funding stagnating at 0.3% of GDP, the achievement of targets set for 2025 would remain a pipe dream," the parliamentary panel said in its report that was tabled in Rajya Sabha last week.

“The allocations provided for 2018-19 is not in line with the pious vision set in NHP 2017 and is opposite to the vision envisaged. The Committee therefore strongly recommends that the department should approach the ministry of finance to provide enhanced allocations for NHM in right proportion which helps actualize the health schemes under NHM and also facilitate the reaching of the targets of 2.5% of GDP by 2025," it said.

NHM aims to provide universal access to equitable, affordable and quality health care services, accountable and responsive to people’s needs, with effective inter-sectoral convergent action to address the wider social determinants of health.

“It is apparent that the overall funding for NHM has reduced. Currently, there is no shortage of funds for vaccine programmes. There may be shortfall in the budget which may hamper some programmes, but during the financial process, the Union health ministry will demand more funds in revised budget estimates," said Pradeep Haldar, deputy commissioner, immunization division, Union health ministry. “We are hopeful that the finance ministry will provide an additional budget for the NHM under which most of the important programmes fall, which will cope up the shortage of funds."

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