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India has low doctor to patient ratio, study finds

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5195 (Published 30 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5195
  1. Sanjeet Bagcchi
  1. 1Kolkata

India has one government doctor for every 11 528 people and one nurse for every 483 people, figures from a report on the country’s health sector have shown.

The National Health Profile 2015 report found that 938 861 doctors were registered in India in 2014.1 It also found that government hospitals had one bed for every 1833 people, although this ratio was far worse in some states—Bihar, for example, had just one bed for every 8800 people.

Dhiman Sen, senior consultant and head of the Department of Internal Medicine at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals in Kolkata, described the ratio of doctors to patients in India as “serious.” He said, “In view of the huge patient load in India, the current situation—where the numbers of doctors and other health staff are so low—will lead to inadequate healthcare delivery, particularly for poor people living in rural areas.”

The report said that the government had taken steps to strengthen the medical education system and the delivery of healthcare in rural areas. “Medical education infrastructure in the country has shown rapid growth during the past 20 years,” it said. In 2014, there were 398 medical colleges in India with a capacity of 46 456 medical students a year, compared with 262 medical colleges with a capacity of 28 349 students in 2005.2

The report said that in rural areas, where 70% of India’s 1.2 billion people live, there were 152 326 rural health sub-centres, 25 020 primary health centres, and 5363 community health centres in March 2014, compared with 145 272 rural health sub-centres, 22 370 primary health centres, and 4045 community health centres in 2002-07.3

Communicable diseases, such as diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, and respiratory infections, accounted for about one quarter of all deaths in the country, the report said. In 2014, 4071 cases of diphtheria were reported in India, including 104 deaths. This was slightly worse than the previous couple of years—the World Health Organization reported 3133 and 2525 new cases of diphtheria in India in 2012 and 2103 respectively.4

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5195

References

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