Last week, the Rajya Sabha passed the bill with two amendments—increased representation from state medical council and vice-chancellor of medical universities—and referred it to the Lok Sabha, which too passed the amendments on Monday. The bill will now go to the President for his assent.
Seeking sweeping reforms to medical education, largely opposed by the medical fraternity, the bill attempts to set up a regulatory body called the National Medical Commission in place of the tainted Medical Council of India (MCI).
“Marred by corruption, the MCI underwent major judicial interventions for last 20 years. The government after major deliberations realized that the idea of a self-regulatory body wasn’t fruitful. The NMC will bring a very transparent era in medical education with eminent personalities running it for a single term of four years," Arun Singhal, additional secretary, ministry of health and family welfare told Mint.
According to the government, the NMC bill will provide for a medical education system that improves access to quality and affordable medical education, and ensures availability of adequate and high quality medical professionals in all parts of the country. The NMC will bring in changes in the way medical colleges are assessed, MBBS entrance are conducted and bring in new provisions such as exit exams and regulation of course fees in private colleges. Section 15 (1) of the bill proposes a common final-year MBBS exam, the National Exit Test (NEXT), before an individual starts practising medicine and for seeking admission to post-graduate medical courses and for enrolment in the state register or the national register. There will also be a screening test for foreign medical graduates.
“The NEXT for getting a licence to practise and enrol into the medical register is being opposed, but it is one of the major reforms in medical education with NMC. There will be single National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) to admit students to all medical colleges including AIIMS and JIPMER along with a common counselling. The final-year exam of the MBBS course will now be called as NEXT, it will also be treated as entrance exam for PG courses," said Singhal.
“We have included the skill-based training during the internship period and MBBS course has been made competency-based. This is one of the ways to measure the outcome of medical education which wasn’t there earlier. Now, students can focus on internship instead of preparing for PG exams," he said. The NMC will frame guidelines for determination of fees and all other charges in respect of 50% of seats in private medical institutions and deemed to be universities which are governed under the provisions of this Act. “Before this, we never had the power to regulate course fee. With NMC, we will have some control over fee in private colleges with 50% seats, that too will vary from state to state. More so, the state governments will have more power and freedom to take their own decisions regarding fee," said Singhal. “The bill is an outline. The rules, details of final framework, standard operating procedures and modalities are yet to be developed by the government."