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Rajya Sabha refers Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill to panel

Neetu Chandra Sharma
A parliamentary standing committee will submit a report on the draft legislation in three months

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu on Friday referred the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018, that seeks to regulate and standardize education, training and services of healthcare professionals other than doctors, to the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare.

The Bill was introduced by health minister J.P. Nadda in the Rajya Sabha on 31 December 2018. The panel is to submit a report within three months. If it comes into force, the Bill will open up global opportunities for Indian allied and healthcare-related professionals.

“With this, allied and healthcare-related professionals will get opportunities to work abroad because there will be international standards for these professionals on lines similar to that of medical doctors,” said Preeti Sudan, secretary, ministry of health and family welfare. “The legislation will provide employment opportunities to millions of youth in the country as well and help standardize the allied healthcare professions,” she said.

The bill provides for setting up of an allied and healthcare council of India and similar state councils, which will set standards and facilitate professionals such as physiotherapists, nutritionists and workers in laboratories. The councils will frame policies and standards, help regulate professional conduct, create and maintain live registers, and provide for common entry and exit examinations.

Allied and healthcare professionals constitute a key part of the human resource network in health.

This legislation will benefit an estimated 900,000 allied and healthcare-related professionals and thousands of other professionals joining the workforce annually, according to the government. The central and state councils will include 15 major professional categories, including 53 professions in allied and healthcare-related streams.

It will bring all existing allied and healthcare professionals on board within a few years from the date of establishment of the councils, the government claimed. Globally, allied and healthcare professionals typically attend undergraduate degree programmes of a minimum of three to four years and may attain qualifications of up to PhD level in their respective streams. However, most Indian institutions offering such courses lack standardization.

Most countries have a statutory or regulatory body authorized to license and certify qualifications and competence of such professionals, particularly those involved in direct patient care, or those whose occupations impact patient-care directly, such as lab technologists and dosimetrists. There has been a considerable gap in the allied and healthcare space because of a lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and absence of standards for education and training of such professionals.

At present, there is no regulation of key professions. Physiotherapy colleges that have mushroomed across the country are unable to offer quality education, said health experts, with the result that many untrained practitioners have opened ‘physiotherapy boutiques'.

“The bill when it comes into force will regularize registration, recognition, standard, quality of education in physiotherapy and will be able to check the unprofessional practice and quackery in physiotherapy by untrained professionals,” said Sanjiv K. Jha, president, Indian Association of Physiotherapists.