[Editorial Analysis] The wellness workforce

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill
Mains level: Issues related to Health Sector.

Context:

• Recently, the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020 was passed unanimously by the Parliament.

Significance of the NCAHP bill:

• It provides for regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals.
• It maintains a central register of allied and healthcare professionals. It recognizes over 50 professions such as optometrists, physiotherapists, etc which had lacked a comprehensive regulatory mechanism until now.
• It classifies allied professionals on the basis of International System of Classification of Occupations (ISCO code) which provides global mobility and enables better opportunities and benefits for around 8-9 lakh allied and healthcare professionals.
• It aims to establish a central statutory body as a National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions which is supported by 10 Professional councils. Its function is to frame policies and standards, regulate professional conduct, prescribe qualifications, create and maintain a central register.
• It also has a provision for state councils to execute major functions through autonomous boards.

Why Paradigm shift?

• For decades Being Healthy was largely understood as not being sick or getting treatment for sick. This led to overemphasizing Curative healthcare while neglecting preventive and promotive aspects of healthcare.
• But since 2017 there has been a paradigm shift in perception, policy, and programmatic interventions in healthcare delivery in India.
• Ayushman Bharat with its two Pillars operationalized critical recommendations of National Health Policy 2017. PMJAY protected the neediest from the catastrophic expenditure. With Health and Wellness Centers India took the first step towards delivering comprehensive primary healthcare that addresses major causes of morbidity and mortality.
• The stress of modern lifestyle, rapid urbanization, rising chronic non-communicable disease burden has necessitated a change in delivering healthcare.
• Caring for patients with mental condition and the increasing elderly population requires a trained, allied health workforce.

Some features of the Bill:

• It defines an ‘Allied Health Professional’ as an associate, technician, or technologist trained to support the diagnosis and treatment of any illness, disease, injury, or impairment.
• A ‘healthcare professional’ includes a scientist, therapist, or any other professional who studies, advises, researches supervises or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic, or promotional health services.
• The Bill sets up the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Profession with major functions such as
1. Creating and maintaining an online Central Register of all registered professionals.
2. Providing basic standards of education and qualifications.
• The Commission will constitute a Professional Council for every recognised category of allied and healthcare professions.
• Within six months from the passage of the Bill, state governments will constitute State Allied and Healthcare Councils, that function as an implementing agency in the respective State.
• 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.

Conclusion:

• Global evidence points out the vital role of allied professionals in the delivery of healthcare services.
• By acknowledging these professionals, who are the first to recognize the problems of patients and who serve as safety nets, the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020, has the potential to overhaul the entire allied health workforce. NCAHP is not only timely but critical to the changing paradigm.

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