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Lok Sabha passes National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021

Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan speaks (ANI Photo )Premium
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan speaks (ANI Photo )

  • The legislation is aimed at fulfilling long-pending demands of the sector, and enhance employment opportunities for professionals, the Union Health Minister said
  • This legislation is expected to benefit an estimated 9 lakhs allied and healthcare-related professionals, according to the government

Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill that seeks to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals in the country. The parliament gave a nod to the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2021 by voice vote.

The legislation is aimed at fulfilling long-pending demands of the sector, and enhance employment opportunities for professionals, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said while replying to a debate on the Bill. “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," he said.

This legislation is expected to benefit an estimated 9 lakhs allied and healthcare-related professionals and thousands of other professionals joining the workforce annually, according to the government. The union health minister said that the paramedics and allied healthcare workers lab technicians, radiographers, dieticians played a critical role during the covid-19 pandemic and recovery of patients.

The Bill provides for structure, constitution, composition and functions of the Central Council and State Councils. The councils will be framing policies and standards, regulation of professional conduct, creation and maintenance of live registers, provisions for common entry and exit examinations and a system to improve research and development and adoption of latest scientific advancement. The central and state councils will include 15 major professional categories, including 53 professions in allied and healthcare-related streams.

Calling it a landmark Bill, Harsh Vardhan said it is going to form regulatory structure and ensure registration of 50 such allied and healthcare professionals. This will make healthcare a multi-disciplinary system with patient in focus, he said.

Globally, Allied and Healthcare Professionals typically attend undergraduate degree programme of a minimum of three to four years to begin with and may attain up to PhD level qualification in their respective streams. However, currently most of Indian institutions offering such courses lack standardisation. Majority of the countries worldwide, have a statutory licensing or regulatory body that is authorised to license and certify the qualifications and competence of such professionals, particularly those involved in direct patient care. Though such professionals have existed in the Indian healthcare system for many decades, a considerable gap in the allied and healthcare space is because of a lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and absence of standards for education and training of allied and healthcare professionals.

“The bill aims to establish a statutory body or commission that frames policies and standards, regulate professional conduct and qualifications for allied healthcare professionals, besides providing uniformity of service standards across institutions," Harsh Vardhan said.

The chairman and vice-chairman of the body will be selected for two years and they would be eligible for renomination for further two terms. “All standards have been coded by international yardsticks and there will be representations from all states and union territories on this commission with each state having state-level commissions. This will help in enhancing their standard and skills," said the union health minister adding that a common regulator has been prepared for all allied professionals which will enable a team-based approach to patient care.

The allied and healthcare professions include a wide range of workers for diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of acute and chronic diseases. These professions also work to optimise patient outcomes and attend to overall prevention, promotion, wellness and management of diseases.

According to the statement of objects and the reasons of the bill, the advancement in the health sector, changing preferences of consumers and service providers, had warranted creation of a fresh vision of healthcare delivery with a patient-centric approach and focus on moving to a multi-disciplinary team-based care.

“This has necessitated the need to implement new ways of deploying health workers, strengthening the workforce by task-shifting models and improving access to quality services through qualified and competent allied and healthcare professionals," it said. Earlier in December 2018, the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018, was introduced in Rajya Sabha.

It was referred to the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee for review, which after a detailed examination recommended certain amendments. Withdrawn, thereafter, a new bill called the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill was introduced last year after incorporating the recommendations made by the panel. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha last week.

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