Allied and Healthcare Council of India to be set up: Cabinet approval
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22, 2018 approved the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018 for regulation and standardisation of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals.
The Bill provides for setting up of an Allied and Healthcare Council of India and corresponding state allied and healthcare councils, which will play the role of a standard-setter and facilitator for professions of allied and healthcare.
• The bill provides for the establishment of central and corresponding state allied and healthcare councils and 15 major professional categories including 53 professions in allied and healthcare streams.
• It provides for structure, constitution, composition and functions of the central council and state councils such as framing of policies and standards, regulation of professional conduct, creation and maintenance of live registers, provisions for common entry and exit examinations.
• The professional advisory bodies under central and state councils will examine issues independently and provide recommendations relating to specific recognised categories.
• The bill will also have an overriding effect on any other existing law for any of the covered professions.
• The state council will undertake recognition of allied and healthcare institutions.
• The clause of offences and penalties has been included in the bill to check mal¬practices. The bill also empowers the central and state governments to make rules.
• Under the bill’s provisions, the central government will also have the power to issue directions to the council, to make regulations and to add or amend the schedule.
• The bill calls for the constitution of an interim council within 6 months of its passing, which will hold the charge for a period of two years until the establishment of the Central Council.
• The council at the centre and the states are to be established as body corporate with a provision to receive funds from various sources.
• The councils will also be supported by central and state governments respectively through grant-in-aid as needed. However, if the state government expresses inability, the central government may release some grant for initial years to the state council.
The central council will comprise 47 members, of which 14 members shall be ex-officio representing diverse and related roles and functions and remaining 33 shall be non-ex-officio members who mainly represent the 15 professional categories.
The state councils are also envisioned to mirror the central council, comprising 7 ex-officio and 21 non-ex officio members and a chairperson to be elected from amongst the non-ex officio members.
The bill’s provisions will bring all existing allied and healthcare professionals on board during the first few of years from the date of establishment of the council.
They will provide an opportunity to create qualified, highly skilled and competent jobs in healthcare by enabling professionalism of the allied and healthcare workforce.
This would also lead to high quality, multi-disciplinary care in line with the vision of Ayushman Bharat, moving away from a 'doctor led' model to a 'care accessible and team-based’ model.
It would also provide an opportunity to cater to the global demand (shortage) of the healthcare workforce, which is projected to be about 15 million by the year 2030, as per the WHO Global Workforce, 2030 report.
The bill is expected to directly benefit around 8-9 lakh existing Allied and Healthcare related professionals in the country and several other graduating professionals joining workforce annually and contributing to the health system.
However, since the bill is directed to strengthen the healthcare delivery system at large, it is expected to benefit the entire population of the country and the health sector as a whole.
The total cost implication of the bill’s implementation is expected to be Rs 95 crores for the first four years.
Around 4/5th of the total budget (Rs 75 crores) has been earmarked for the states, while the remaining fund will support the Central Council’s operations for 4 years and also establish the Central and State Registers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Allied health personnel are personnel who have specific connections with the art and science of health care and are recognised as members of the health team in the national health system.
They are educated with different levels of professional qualifications, in a recognised or accredited health or health-related or academic Institution.
The allied and healthcare professionals include individuals involved with the delivery of health or related services, with expertise in therapeutic, diagnostic, curative, preventive and rehabilitative interventions. They work in interdisciplinary health teams including physicians, nurses and public health officials to promote, protect, treat or manage a person’s physical, mental, social, emotional and environmental health and holistic well-being.
In the current state of the healthcare system, there exist many allied and healthcare professionals, who remain unidentified, unregulated and underutilised.
The current system is highly focused on efforts towards strengthening limited categories of professionals such as doctors, nurses and frontline workers such as Accredited Social Health Activist or ASHAs, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife or ANMs.
However, a number of others have been identified over the years, whose potential can be utilised to improve and increase the access to quality driven services in the rural and hard to reach areas.
The allied and healthcare professionals constitute an important element of the health human resource network and the skilled and efficient allied and healthcare professionals can help reduce the cost of care and dramatically improve the accessibility to quality driven healthcare services.
Globally, allied and healthcare professionals (A&HPs) typically attend undergraduate degree programme of a minimum of 3-4 years to begin with and may attain up to Ph.D. level qualification in their respective streams. However, most of the Indian institutions offering such courses lack standardisation.
Most of the countries across the world have a statutory licensing or regulatory body that is authorised to license and certify the qualifications and competence of such professionals, especially those involved in direct patient care such as physiotherapist, nutritionist or those whose occupation impact patient care directly such as lab technologists and dosimetrists.
Though such professionals exist in the Indian healthcare system, the gap in the allied and healthcare space is due to the lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and absence of standards for education and training of A&HPs.
The bill thus seeks to establish a robust regulatory framework that will play the role of a standard-setter and regulator for the allied and healthcare professions.