Speech by Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, Director of Medical Services, Ministry Of Health, at the 25th Singapore Pharmacy Congress 2015, 12 September 2015

Ms Yong Pei Chean, Chairperson, Singapore Pharmacy Congress Organising Committee,

Ms Miko Thum, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore,     

Associate Professor Chui Wai Keung, Head, Department of Pharmacy, NUS  

Distinguished guests and speakers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,                                 

Good morning,


1.              A very warm welcome to everyone. I am delighted to join you at this year’s Singapore Pharmacy Congress. This year, we celebrate the 110th founding anniversary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore and the Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore. To commemorate this important milestone, both parties have jointly organised this congress.

2.              The theme of this congress "Pioneering Care for Tomorrow" is aptly chosen for the journey of Pharmacy in Singapore, in its growth and achievement through the years, and into the future. As part of this important milestone, the profession should continue to innovate in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences; and make pharmaceutical care more relevant for the needs of Singaporeans.

3.              In tandem, effective care delivery will require a team-based approach and teamwork between healthcare professionals who are committed to continually improve care for patients and the public. Teamwork, coupled with innovation, will require shifts in the roles of pharmacists; to proactively contribute to improve care and to meet patients’ needs.


4.              In order to achieve sustainable and seamless care, especially in view of our ageing population, healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are working together to bring about better and more accessible care delivery through various community-based care initiatives.

5.              Good efforts have been made to enhance pharmaceutical care standards in the intermediate and long term care (ILTC) sector. Here, both the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore (PSS) and the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) have collaborated. For example, in 2011, PSS and AIC embarked on the Pharmaceutical Care Programme, an initiative aimed at enhancing medication safety standards by having community pharmacists provide medication review and staff education in nursing homes and hospices. This project has been enhanced to support nursing homes to meet the enhanced nursing home standards that are in place today and enforced in April 2016. PSS pharmacists are helping nursing homes to optimise medication management and in the training of staff. In the next few months, pharmacists from PSS will look at expanding this programme to cover more homes.

6.              In addition, PSS and AWWA Rehab & Day Care Centre, supported by AIC, will also pilot an enhanced fall risk management programme, which incorporates medication reconciliation as one of the interventions to lower the risk of falls among elderly clients attending centre-based services.  

7.              Pharmacists from the acute hospitals are not limited to traditional care settings and are assisting patients in their homes. The Pharmacist Outreach Programme (POP) under the ambit of AIC’s Aged Care Transition or ACTION team, and home medication review under Alexandra Health System’s Ageing-In-Place Programme are examples of such schemes. Under the POP programme, pharmacists and the care coordinators of the ACTION team visit patients in their homes after discharge, where the pharmacists would carry out medication reconciliation in consultation with the patients’ principal physician. These initiatives have helped address issues related to polypharmacy, leading to better compliance and helping patients use medication more safely.

8.              I am also heartened to know that Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Pharmacy, Unity Pharmacy and Watsons Pharmacy have fostered a partnership to reach out to the community, by allowing SGH patients to collect their medicine at nearby pharmacies, as well as rendering medication counselling to improve chronic disease management, under the Octo-Pills Programme.  


9.               To stay responsive to the evolving needs of our population, various productivity efforts have been implemented in our healthcare services, such as leveraging technology to enhance efficiency and quality of care. Such productivity efforts have greatly enhanced pharmacy practice and can lead to improved manpower efficiency, allowing pharmacists to better focus on direct patient care, in place of routine, repetitive or operational tasks.

10.          NHG Pharmacy has implemented the Multi-dose Medication Management System to automate the packaging of medication. Through this initiative, it has allowed pharmacy staff to handle about 50% more prescriptions each day, while ensuring improved safety. Such systems also benefit the nurses who now spend less time picking and packing the medications before administering to the patients.

11.          Aside from technology adoption, re-designing processes and roles are also essential to allow healthcare professionals to practise optimally. The Ministry of Health has been working on providing a structured development framework for pharmacy technicians including developing entry-level competency standards and an enhanced career advancement framework, so that they can take on extended roles in supporting pharmacists.

12.          In relation to innovation and innovative practices, I am glad to learn that this year, PSS is also launching the inaugural Mrs Tan Shook Fong-PSS Innovation and Scientific Research Award.  This award, offered by Mrs Tan, former Chief Pharmacist of MOH; together with PSS, will promote continuous innovation among our pharmacists, and drive practice-changing ideas and scientific research.


13.          Pioneering care for tomorrow requires the profession to prepare pharmacists to be future ready. Since 1905, the NUS Department of Pharmacy has remained the sole academic unit in Singapore that provides tertiary pharmacy education. It has re-engineered the undergraduate programme to suit the needs of society and prepare the students to be future-ready for the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. Participation in community activities, such as medication review or ‘brown bagging’ projects with PSS, has provided a platform for pharmacy undergraduates to learn together with students from other health professional programmes. This prepares the students for their future role in working with other healthcare professionals to provide team-based patient care.

14.          To facilitate the transition from school to practice, the NUS Department of Pharmacy and Singapore Pharmacy Council have been working closely to revise the pre-registration training, a mandatory requirement for pharmacist registration, into a rotational experiential model. The revised model will provide exposure to the various roles that a pharmacist can play in direct patient care, such as health promotion, drug information and medication management; and indirect patient care such as research, drug manufacturing and regulation. This early exposure will provide a broad perspective of the pharmacist’s engagement in various sectors so that the young graduates are cognizant of how healthcare practices can be integrated and harmonised to offer the best quality care.


15.          This congress is an important platform for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to come together to network, learn from each other and explore innovative ways to collaborate and deliver safe and direct care for our patients.

16.          I would like to congratulate the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore and Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore for your good work and commitment in hosting this important event.

17.          I wish you a fruitful and successful 25th Singapore Pharmacy Congress.   Thank you.

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