WITH THE National Medical Commission (NMC) planning to soon switch over to a licentiate test after MBBS, the apex medical education regulator has released draft guidelines on how the doctors will be registered in order to practice medicine.
The guidelines provide framework for creating a dynamic national medical register, with a unique ID assigned to each student who qualifies NEET, with professional qualifications such as post-graduation and super-speciality training being added to the same ID.
The set of three draft guidelines also throws open the registration to foreign doctors who want to come to India to study in post-graduation courses, fellowships, clinical research, or voluntary clinical services. In addition, the guidelines also solve the lacunae of foreign experts being granted “permission” by the Health Ministry. Instead, the NMC will now grant a temporary registration to such doctors that will end with the duration of the programme. The maximum duration of such a temporary registration will be 12 months.
The draft states that Indian medical graduates would be eligible for registration in the National Medical Register after they complete their MBBS degree from a recognised college, complete their year-long mandatory internship, and pass the National Exit Test (NExT). Foreign medical graduates can be registered after they have completed their education in a country other than India, are registerable as doctors in the said country, have completed a year-long internship in India, and have passed same NExT exam.
At present, Indian students do not have to sit for a licentiate exam after MBBS to get registered in their respective state medical councils, whereas, foreign medical graduates have to pass the screening test conducted by National Board Examinations in Medical Sciences to be registered.
NExT will not only level the playing field for both, it will also act as the qualifying test for post-graduate programmes instead of the NEET-PG the aspirants have to appear for currently.
As for the medical register, officials said that after a unique ID is created, the portal will be thrown open to all recognised institutes in India who can upload all verified documents of their students to it. “This will make the registration process easier as the state medical councils currently have to get all the documents submitted by those wishing to register from the medical institutes by post before adding the name,” an official at NMC said.
The draft guidelines also state, “All licenced practitioners are obliged to inform and update their data in National Register such as Additional Qualifications, Contact Details, and Place of Practice / Employment as soon as changes occur.”
At present, every state maintains its own medical register, which is then sent to NMC for a consolidated country-wide register. This registration with the state medical councils usually has to be updated every five years, leaving a lot of room for duplication of names in different states and doctors who have retired or died remaining on the register for years, according to an official from Delhi Medical Council. Doctors cannot practice without being registered with their own state council.
The re-registration still has to happen after specific periods, although the period has not been specified. “Since the register will keep getting updates as and when the doctors pursue specialisations or any other courses, it can be shared with various authorities to check the qualifications of people they wish to hire,” the official said.
Till the NExt is introduced, the current processes will continue, the draft guidelines state. The government expects to conduct the NExT from 2024.