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The National Health policy will provide free medicines and "assured" health services to all and aims to reduce out of pocket health expenditure, Health minister J P Nadda said today.
He said the newly unveiled policy unlike the earlier one stresses on "preventive and promotive" health care and also has a "target-oriented" commitment for elimination of diseases for which an implementation framework has also been envisaged.
The policy envisages the creation of National Health Care Standards Organisation which will formulate guidelines and protocols for healthcare while there is a provision of establishing a separate empowered tribunal for speedy resolution of disputes and complaints, the Minister said.
"In order to provide access and financial protection at secondary and tertiary care levels, NHP 2017 proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency care services in all public hospitals," he said.
"Every one in the country will be given assured health services. Every section of the society belonging to any financial status, whosoever comes to our public health facility, will get assured services. This policy is patient centric and the patient has been empowered," Nadda told reporters.
The Health Minister said that under the policy, family health card will be made which will be connected to Public Health care facility so that a patient's history can be digitally accessed.
"There will be a periodic measurement of all the health institutions, both public and private which has been envisaged in the policy. What is their (institution's) grading, facilities provided and their quality levels will be checked," Nadda said.
As a crucial component, the policy proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a time-bound manner, Nadda said while asserting that the health budget has increased in the last two years, nearly 27 per cent this time. The real problem is that we are not able to spend the entire amount, he said.
"Resources are never a problem. Its government's wish that health be given priority. Initially, budget estimates were always a larger number and later slashed leading to the revised estimates being less.
"It is for last two years, the revised estimates have increased and expenditure too has been more than 95 per cent. There is no dearth of money. Problem was of intention. Money was not a problem," he said, adding that the the target of 2.5 per cent will be reached by 2025 in a phased manner.
He said that the earlier policy focused on Communicable Diseases but over the last 15 years the focus has shifted to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which cause 60 per cent deaths presently and leads to increase in out of pocket expenditure of people on health which is why the new policy was required.
He said that while the earlier policy was a "sick" care policy, this policy talks about preventive and promotive health care and stress has been given an early screening at primary and secondary health centres which includes NCDs and chronic illness, adding that primary health care has to be comprehensive and universal.
"In Primary and Secondary Health Centres, our effort will be to provide facilities ourselves but at places where we cannot provide it, we will engage the private sector. This is one of the processes through which we want to take forward the idea of decreasing out of pocket expenditure.
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Nadda said that the policy is quality-driven and provides the much needed framework for achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care services to all at an affordable cost.
It also advocates allocating major proportion (up to two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care followed by secondary and tertiary care.
Elaborating on the policy's thrust on strengthening the PHCs, Nadda said a huge programme of universal screening for early detection of blood pressure, diabetes, oral, breast and cervical cancer will start in the country.
"Training has already begun in 100 districts of the country. There is also a plan of converting 1.5 lakh health centres into wellness centres. 22,000 we will convert this year," he said.
He said the government will give free drug and diagnostic facility in PHCs and district levels.
"Government will do strategic purchasing (in case there is) a gap. If the government is not able to address it, then it will engage private players who will provide free drugs and diagnostic facilities. But at the end we will make sure, it will be free," he said.
The Minister said that for the first time, a policy talks about mainstreaming of Indian system of medicines and all allopathic institutions will also have AYUSH centres while yoga will be introduced in schools and workplace as well.
Noting that due to regulations, 70 per cent of medical equipments are imported, Nadda said that the policy also envisages relaxation in them so that 'Make in India' equipments are available and local production gets a boost.
Nadda said that the policy aims at increasing life expectancy at birth from 67.5 to 70 by 2025, it also establishes regular tracking of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease.
The policy has target-oriented commitment of reduction of Total Fertility Rate to 2.1 at national and sub-national level by 2025, it also aims at reducing Under Five Mortality to 23 by 2025 and Maternal Mortality Rate from current levels to 100 by 2020 and infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019.
The policy also aims at achieving elimination status of Leprosy by 2018, Kala-Azar by 2017 and Lymphatic Filariasis in endemic pockets by 2017 and achieve a cure rate of over 85 per cent in new sputum positive patients for TB and reduce incidence of new cases, to reach elimination status by 2025.
Nadda said the roadmap of this new policy is predicated on public spending and provisioning of a public healthcare system that is "comprehensive, integrated and accessible" to all.
He said the policy also advocates a proactive engagement with the private sector for critical gap filling towards achieving national goals.
"It envisages private sector collaboration for strategic purchasing, capacity building, skill development programmes, awareness generation, developing sustainable networks for community to strengthen mental health services, and disaster management," he said.
"The policy emphasizes reorienting and strengthening the public health institutions across the country, so as to provide universal access to free drugs, diagnostics and other essential healthcare," he said.