The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021 (AHCP Bill) was passed by the Parliament on 24 March 2021. The Bill was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the 31 December 2018 and the same was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for its examination and recommendations. The Committee after detailed examination, recommended certain amendments, after which the Amended AHCP Bill was reintroduced in the Parliament. The Bill now awaits Presidential assent before it can be codified into law.
Objectives and Factors Influencing the Bill
The objective of the new legislation has been to holistically look at the healthcare workforce and its efficacy in delivery healthcare. The primary focus until now has been only regulating doctors, leaving other professions related to health and wellness under-utilised if not ignored. Numerous factors have contributed to the Government’s push to bring in the AHCP Bill. First, it seeks to address the dismal patient to healthcare worker ratio, which currently only considers doctors and nurses.
The inclusion of 56 professional services broadly covering categories like Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Ophthalmic Sciences, Nutrition Sciences, Medical Laboratory and Life Sciences, Medical Radiology, Imaging and Therapeutic Technology, Medical Technologists and Physician Associates, Trauma, Burn Care and Surgical/Anesthesia related Technology, Community Care and Behavioural Health Sciences and Health Information Management and Health Informatics will help address the deficit in healthcare manpower in our country.
Second, the new legislation will help establish a roadmap for bringing international standards in the entire healthcare ecosystem to establish resilient health systems. Additionally, the United Nation’s Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth stresses upon strengthening the health workers and urges to ensure effective health employment. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, the global economy is projected to create around forty million new health sector jobs, mostly in the middle and high-income countries. The new legislation will help establish training courses and education to not only offset the demand for healthcare workers but also increase the quality of services. The new AHCP Bill incorporates the International Labour Organisation’s International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08), which establishes international standards in classifying different professions and brings about uniformity in assessing the efficacy of programmes and will bring uniformity to training and education of professionals in different fields.
Highlights of the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, 2021
- Registration of Allied Healthcare Professionals Mandatory: 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.
- National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions: The Bill sets the foundation for the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions. The Commission will consist of: (i) the Chairperson, (ii) Vice-Chairperson, (iii) five members (at the level of Joint Secretary) representing various Departments/ Ministries of the central government, (iv) one representative from the Directorate General of Health Services, (v) three Deputy Directors or Medical Superintendents appointed on a rotational basis from amongst medical institutions including the AIIMS, Delhi and AIIPMR, Mumbai, and (vi) 12 part-time members representing State Councils, among others.
- Functions of the Commission: The Commission will perform the following functions with regard to Allied and Healthcare professionals: (i) framing policies and standards for regulating education and practice, (ii) creating and maintaining an online Central Register of all registered professionals, (iii) providing basic standards of education, courses, curriculum, staff qualifications, examination, training, maximum fee payable for various categories, and (iv) providing for a uniform entrance and exit examination, among others.
- Professional Councils: The Commission will constitute a Professional Council for every recognised category of allied and healthcare profession (56 of which have been identified and listed). The Professional Council will consist of a president and four to 24 members, representing each profession in the recognised category. The Commission may delegate any of its functions to this Council.
- State Councils: Within six months from the passage of the Bill, state governments will constitute State Allied and Healthcare Councils. The State Councils will consist of: (i) the Chairperson (at least 25 years of experience in the field of allied and healthcare science), (ii) one member representing medical sciences in the state government, (iii) two members representing state medical colleges, (iv) two members representing charitable institutions, and (v) two members from each of the recognised categories of allied and healthcare professions, nominated by the state government, among others. The State Councils will: (i) enforce professional conduct and code of ethics to be observed by allied healthcare professionals, (ii) maintain respective State Registers, (iii) inspect allied and healthcare institutions, and (iv) ensure uniform entry and exit examinations.
- Establishment of institutions: Prior permission of the State Council will be required to: (i) establish a new institution, or (ii) open new courses, increase the admission capacity, or admit 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.