With health care professionals like physiotherapists, medical radiation technologists and pathology technologists playing a critical role in the delivery of health care in the country, the government has decided to set up a separate board to ensure proper standards and their professional development.
The National Board for Allied Health Sciences is to provide a platform for the standardization of courses and curriculum in fields like physiotherapy, optometry, speech language pathology, medical lab technology, radiography among others. India has a shortage around 6.4 million allied health professionals, according to a study. Regulatory bodies or councils are there only for doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists.
"The health ministry in principle has agreed to go ahead with the setting up of a National Board for Allied Health Professionals," Vishwas Mehta, joint secretary in the health ministry, told IANS. An interim road map for setting up the board has been provided by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in a report it submitted to the ministry last year. Mehta said the board would lead to the creation of competent and qualified health care service professionals who would take care of the day to day aspects of the medical profession, allowing the specialised doctors time to devote to diagnosis and treatment of diseases, conditions and surgeries.
Kavita Narayan, project in-charge and head of the hospital system unit of the PHFI, told IANS a considerable regulatory gap in the allied health space could be attributed to lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and the absence of national standards for professional development and licensing of allied health professionals. The aim is to deter unqualified people or quacks from practicing and also to maintain the standards of these health care providers.
"This is the time for India to put in place standards and training on par with international best practices for this large and diverse group of healthcare professionals. It is time to give them their space under the sun and support the 'care team' approach for better health outcomes," Narayan told IANS. Mehta added that international standards were the need of the hour in public interest.
The study submitted by the PHFI said a supply-demand analysis undertaken for urban and rural population reveals a total national shortage of approximately 6.4 million allied health professionals, with highest gaps in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. The health ministry aims to address the shortage by establishing one national and eight regional institutes of allied health sciences across the country, which will serve as centres of excellence. The study recommended that the national and regional institutes of allied health sciences should be established as autonomous bodies fully-funded by the central government for their better management.
The land would be provided by the state governments and they should be encouraged to find ways to sustain operational cost. The study also called for augmenting the capacity of the public sector to provide more employment opportunities for the allied health cadre. The government has operationalised centrally-sponsored schemes during the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 for setting up of National Institute of Allied Health Sciences (NIAHS) and Regional Institute of Allied Health Sciences (RIAHS) and supporting state government medical colleges for conducting courses in allied health sciences.