Year : 2021  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 119--120

The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2020 and its implication for mental health


Om Prakash Singh 
 Professor of Psychiatry, WBMES; Consultant Psychiatrist, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Om Prakash Singh
AA 304, Ashabari Apartments, O/31, Baishnabghata, Patuli Township, Kolkata - 700 094, West Bengal
India




How to cite this article:
Singh OP. The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2020 and its implication for mental health.Indian J Psychiatry 2021;63:119-120


How to cite this URL:
Singh OP. The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2020 and its implication for mental health. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 May 5 ];63:119-120
Available from: https://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2021/63/2/119/313711


Full Text



The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2020 has been notified on March 28, 2021, by the Gazette of India published by the Ministry of Law and Justice. This bill aims to “provide 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 Register and creation of a system to improve access, research and development and adoption of latest scientific advancement and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”[1]

This act has created a category of Health Care Professionals which is defined as: “healthcare professional” includes a scientist, therapist, or other professional who studies, advises, researches, supervises or provides preventive, curative, rehabilitative, therapeutic or promotional health services and who has obtained any qualification of degree under this Act, the duration of which shall not be <3600 h spread over a period of 3 years to 6 years divided into specific semesters.[1]

According to the act, “Allied health professional” includes an associate, technician, or technologist who is trained to perform any technical and practical task to support diagnosis and treatment of illness, disease, injury or impairment, and to support implementation of any healthcare treatment and referral plan recommended by a medical, nursing, or any other healthcare professional, and who has obtained any qualification of diploma or degree under this Act, the duration of which shall not be less than 2000 h spread over a period of 2 years to 4 years divided into specific semesters.”[1]

It is noticeable that while the term “Health Care Professionals” does not include doctors who are registered under National Medical Council, Mental Health Care Act (MHCA), 2017 includes psychiatrists under the ambit of Mental Health Care Professionals.[2] This discrepancy needs to be corrected - psychiasts, being another group of medical specialists, should be kept out of the broad umbrella of “Mental Healthcare Professionals.”

The category of Behavioural Health Sciences Professional has been included and defined as “a person who undertakes scientific study of the emotions, behaviours and biology relating to a person's mental well-being, their ability to function in everyday life and their concept of self. “Behavioural health” is the preferred term to “mental health” and includes professionals such as counselors, analysts, psychologists, educators and support workers, who provide counseling, therapy, and mediation services to individuals, families, groups, and communities in response to social and personal difficulties.”[1]

This is a welcome step to the extent that it creates a diverse category of trained workforce in the field of Mental Health (Behavioural Health Science Professionals) and tries to regulate their training although it mainly aims to promote mental wellbeing. However there is a huge lacuna in the term of “Mental Illness” as defined by MHCA, 2017. Only severe disorders are included as per definition and there is no clarity regarding inclusion of other psychiatric disorders, namely “common mental disorders” such as anxiety and depression. This leaves a strong possibility of concept of “psychiatric illnesses” being limited to only “severe psychiatric disorders” (major psychoses) thus perpetuating the stigma and alienation associated with psychiatric patients for centuries. Psychiatrists being restricted to treating severe mental disorders as per MHCA, 2017, there is a strong possibility that the care of common mental disorders may gradually pass on under the care of “behavioural health professionals” as per the new act!

There is need to look into this aspect by the leadership in psychiatry, both organizational and academic psychiatry, and reduce the contradictions between the MHCA, 2017 and this nascent act. All disorders classified in ICD 10 and DSM 5 should be classified as “Psychiatric Disorders” or “Mental Illness.” This will not only help in fighting the stigma associated with psychiatric illnesses but also promote the integration of psychiatry with other specialties.

References

1The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2021. The Gazette of India. Published by Ministry of Law and Justice; 28 March, 2021.
2The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. The Gazette of India. Published by Ministry of Law and Justice; April 7, 2017.