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14 Mar 2019

14th Mar 2019

          The Ministry of Health (MOH) has appointed 12 members of a Workgroup who will undertake a comprehensive review and make the appropriate recommendations to MOH on:
          (i) the taking of informed consent by doctors; and
          (ii) the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) disciplinary process.

2.        The Workgroup comprises medical and legal professionals as well as laypersons, and represents a mix of interests and backgrounds. The three professional bodies (Singapore Medical Association, Academy of Medicine, Singapore, and College of Family Physicians Singapore) which together, represent almost all the doctors in Singapore, are represented on the Workgroup by their Presidents/Master.

3.        More details of the members are in Annex A. The Terms of Reference for the Workgroup are found in Annex B. The Workgroup’s appointment was effective on 13 March 2019.

4.        The Workgroup, which will convene in the coming weeks, is expected to complete its work by end-2019. It is important that this process be undertaken in consultation and partnership with the medical fraternity. The Workgroup will thus canvass the views of medical practitioners from across a diverse practice background and the public, in coming to its views and recommendations.

5.        Workgroup co-chairperson Associate Professor Ng Wai Hoe said, “The review aims to provide guidance that will advocate for patient interests and promote patient care; be fair and reasonable to doctors and benefit society at large. We will engage widely to strengthen trust in our system and processes.”

6.        Workgroup co-chairperson Ms Kuah Boon Theng, SC, said, “When doctors have the benefit of clear practical guidance on how best to serve the needs of their patients, this can only benefit the public. One of the areas of focus will be on informed consent, to help find the right balance, so that it is meaningful to patients and doctors. The workgroup intends to consult widely, to ensure a good representation of views.”

Guidance on patient confidentiality issues

7.        MOH also understands the concerns in relation to the decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) to impose a $50,000 fine on Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang for failing to take appropriate steps to protect the medical confidentiality of his patient. We welcome the SMC’s decision to appeal the DT’s sentence.

8.        To provide greater clarity on patient confidentiality issues when communicating with patients’ next of kin, MOH will work with SMC, the three professional bodies and the public healthcare institutions to formulate a practise note to augment the 2016 SMC Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines.

9.        MOH will continue to engage with healthcare professionals to have greater clarity and balance in the practice and processes in the medical community, so as to enhance patient safety and keep overall healthcare costs affordable.

ANNEX A - COMPOSITION OF WORKGROUP
ANNEX B - TERMS OF REFERENCE OF WORKGROUP