New Delhi : India’s apex medical regulatory authority has asked all state regulators to ensure that doctors do not portray themselves to be specialists or superspecialists in specific fields through the display of unrecognised degrees, diplomas, or memberships against their names.
The National Medical Commission (NMC) has asked state medical councils to “spread the message” against the use of any fake or unrecognised qualifications by registered doctors and about the punitive actions, including suspension or cancellation of their registration, for violations.
The NMC letter to state councils on August 18 follows a request from People for Better Treatment, a Calcutta-based non-government group campaigning for ethics in health care.
“Our organisation has come across complaints of ethical violations by registered medical practitioners where patients were enticed to go to a self-proclaimed specialist or superspecialist with unrecognised or fake postgraduate medical degrees and diplomas,” the PBT said.
The NMC has acknowledged the need to increase awareness among consumers and doctors that it is unethical to portray any unrecognised degrees or diplomas. It has asked the state councils to spread awareness among doctors that they should not claim to be a specialist in any field unless they have NMC-recognised training and qualifications in that specific branch of medicine.
The most common NMC-recognised postgraduate degrees are MD or MS, while DNB stands for Diplomate of the National Board, which is also a recognised qualification by the National Board of Examinations, an autonomous body under the health ministry. Fellowships of prestigious foreign boards such as the Royal College of Surgeons or board certification from bodies such as the American Board of Paediatrics are also recognised qualifications.
PBT founder Kunal Saha, a physician-turned-activist campaigning for patients’ rights and ethics in health care, said the group decided to complain against the display of unrecognised qualifications after they encountered cases of doctors printing abbreviations that were misleading.
For instance, Saha said, one doctor who had placed only MD in front of his name and had claimed to be a specialist in critical care medicine was found to have completed a postgraduate degree in community medicine and not in critical care medicine.
Saha said the PBT had also documented instances of postgraduate doctors portraying certificates they have obtained by completing specialist courses as abbreviations or as members of specialist associations as additional qualifications after MD.
The NMC’s August 18 letter to state medical councils will add uncertainty over what doctors who hold postgraduate diplomas from the Mumbai-based College of Physicians and Surgeons can do, a CPS diploma-holder said. The CPS diplomas are recognised in some states, approved by the Union health ministry, but not recognised by the NMC.