The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan, on 15 September 2020. The Bill sought to regulate and standardise the education and practice of allied and healthcare professionals.
Healthcare professionals are delighted that finally, after years of suggestions and presentations to the government, the proposed Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill has been passed by the Parliament of India. The Bill has now become an Act, henceforth the ‘National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2021’ (NCAHP act). The NCAHP bill was passed as such in the Rajya Sabha on 16 March 2021, and in the Lok Sabha on 24 March 2021.
The NCAHP Act of Parliament received the assent of the President of India on 28 March 2021. The Act comes into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification, appoint; and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this Act.
The Act provides for regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals, assessment of institutions, maintenance of a Central Register and State Registers, and the creation of a system to improve access, research and development and adoption of the latest scientific advancements, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
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. Such a professional should have obtained a degree under this ACT. The duration of the degree should be at least 3,600 hours (over a period of three to six years).
The ACT defines ‘Allied health professional’ as an associate, technician, or technologist trained to support the diagnosis and treatment of any illness, disease, injury, or impairment. Such a professional should have obtained a diploma or degree under this ACT, the duration of which should be at least 2,000 hours (over a period of two to four years).
Eye care professionals are categorised under Ophthalmic Science under the NCAHP act. Optometrists, ophthalmic assistants and vision technicians are covered under this category.
Salient points of the Act for eye care.
The salient points of the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2021, for those in the fields of eye care are:
Early stalwarts and many milestones
As news of the Act spread, there was jubilation among all in the field. The eye care profession dedicates this major milestone to the many stalwarts who took the early and crucial steps to what has finally become an Act: Prof J Enoch, Prof Brien Holden, Dr SS Badrinath, Dr GN Rao, Dr E Vaithialingam, Mr Naval Balliwala, Mr Rajni Turakhia, Dr Tulsiraj and Ms Darshini Desai, among many others.
Dr SS Badrinath instituted good quality four-year optometry education in India by establishing the Elite School of Optometry in 1985. Prof J Enoch put forth his ideas when he delivered the Palkhiwala Memorial Oration in 2008 on the topic “Optometry Regulation and Standardization of Education in India” which was compiled into a 20-page booklet and published in Optometry Today later.
Prof Brien Holden was instrumental in bringing institutions and organisations together to sign the Delhi Declaration in July 2010, which brought both the Indian Optometry Association (IOA) and the National Ophthalmic Association (NOA) together. The declaration was formulated with inputs from the profession, by Dr GN Rao, Dr Tulsiraj and various other experts in eye care. Prof Brien also helped to form the Indian Optometry Federation (IOF) in 2010 and the self-regulatory Optometry Council of India (OCI) in 2012.
All the above contributed greatly to the process of achieving regulation through this Act. There are many other milestones that the profession achieved thanks to the efforts of professionals who worked tirelessly and on an honorary basis. A few of them are:
While it has taken a long time for the Bill to be presented in Parliament and to be passed as an Act, this is a major milestone of recognition and regulation for members of 56 allied and healthcare professions in India, including optometry.
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EFFECTIVE AS OF FEBRUARY 01, 2021
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