The Union Cabinet on Wednesday passed the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill which seeks to replace the 63-year-old Medical Council of India (MCI) to reform the medical sector in India, with focus of medical education.
The Bill also repealed the Indian Medical Council Act 1956, stating that the Council set up under it was corrupt. It was alleged that the process by which the MCI regulated medical colleges was flawed.
The new Bill will have the provision for making national standards in medical education uniform by proposing that the final year MBBS exam be treated as an entrance test for PG and a screening test for students who graduated in medicine from foreign countries. This exam will be called the National Exit Test (NEXT).
"Currently, we are having NEET and entrance exams for AIIMS etc. Now we will also have an exit exam that will be for everyone for getting a license to practice medicine in the country," union minister Prakash Javadekar said during the Cabinet briefing.
“At present, different medical colleges have different MBBS exam patters which means we are never sure of the quality of the medical graduate passing out of MBBS. The NMC proposal is to ensure a uniform national pattern for final year MBBS exam so that all medical graduates who get the licence to practise conform to uniform national standards and quality,” a Health Ministry source said.
The Bill also put a cap fees on 50 percent of the seats in MBBS and PG colleges.
The NMC will be 29-member body which would comprise of 20 members selected through nomination, and nine through election.
It will have the following boards — Undergraduate Medical Education Board, Postgraduate Medical Education Board, Medical Assessment and Rating Board and Ethics and Medical Registration Board. The UG and PG boards will set standards of medical education, while the Rating Board will facilitate the process of granting permissions to new medical colleges, and rank them.
"These measures through an autonomous commission will ensure a transparent admission process and also reduce admission fee, as we have long been talking about fee regulation in private colleges," said Javadekar.
"Medical colleges have to conform to standards the NMC will lay down. Once they conform and are permitted to operate, there would be no need for annual renewals. That system will end,” a government source said.
In March 2016, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health had presented a report on MCI, calling it corrupt. In August that year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set up a special panel ro report on a Bill that would replace it. In 2017, the Bill was cleared, and subsequently approved and introduced in the Lok Sabha.
However, in 2018 the Indian Medical Association (IMA) protested against allowing AYUSH practitioners prescribe medicine after only a bridge course and for holding exit test after MBBS course to license pass-outs. The Bill was then sent to a parliamentary panel which rejected it. It was finally approved on July 17, 2019.