NEW DELHI: Amid concerns that many people go for over-diagnosis and tests which might not be required, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry has proposed that the medical tests should be undertaken only “on the advice of a doctor”. The Centre has proposed to introduce the norm through an amendment in the Clinical Establishment Act, 2012. The suggestion was put in the public domain for feedback last week before it is notified.
A senior health ministry official said the amendments were being considered for some time in view of a large number of complaints. “However, any change in the Act will happen after the formation of the new government,” the official said. “This is also being done because some hospitals and diagnostic labs sell preventive health packages which a person might not need but is pressured into buying.”
The Act provides for registration and regulation of all clinical establishments in the country — public or private — with a view to prescribing minimum standards of facilities and services, but only 10 states and 6 Union Territories have adopted it. Some states have their own laws. Ministry officials said the inclusion of the proposed clause in the Act would mean that hospitals and diagnostic labs will be discouraged from carrying out tests without written prescriptions from medical doctors.
Some experts said the proposed amendment is a significant step as patients are lured into test, X-rays and even screenings for cancer that may be completely unnecessary. “There has been a recent study, for instance, that showed that extending breast cancer screenings programmes to women aged more than 70 does not result in a fall in the number of cancers detected at an advanced stage,” a public health expert with New Delhi based Health Foundation of India said.
“Instead, it results in a large number of women being over-treated because the women were more likely to die of causes other than tumours detected at an early stage. It will be good if only women who are actually suspected of having cancer are advised tests.”