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06 Mar 2020

6th Mar 2020

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Anthea Ong
Nominated MP

Question No. 1662

To ask the Minister for Health (a) what are the measures to ensure that the public healthcare sector has sufficient psychologists; (b) what efforts are there to ensure that patients with psychiatric illnesses receive both medication and psychotherapy support as much as possible; and (c) in each of the last three years, what is the total number of patients who received support from psychologists at (i) inpatient wards in hospitals (ii) outpatient clinics in hospitals and (iii) polyclinics respectively.

Written Answer

1.         MOH works with the public healthcare institutions to attract and retain psychologists and clinical psychologists to meet the needs of persons with mental health conditions. We offer the Healthcare Graduate Studies Award (HGSA) to fresh graduates or mid-career professionals from non-healthcare backgrounds to pursue postgraduate studies in Clinical Psychology [1]. Over the past five years (2015-2019), we have offered a total of 14 such scholarships. Some of the scholarship recipients have since completed their studies and started work in our public healthcare institutions. We have also reviewed the salaries of clinical psychologists and psychologists to keep them competitive. For example, in July 2019, we raised the starting salaries of psychologists and clinical psychologists, together with that of other Allied Health Professionals. As a result of our efforts, the number of psychologists and clinical psychologists in our public healthcare sector has grown by an average of 7% per year over the past three years (note: 2017-2019 figures).

2.      At the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), the provision of care to patients is holistic, comprising both medical and psychological support. The overall care plan is crafted after the patient’s psychiatric condition and his psycho-social needs are assessed by the attending doctor. Based on the assessment, the patient may be prescribed medications and provided with psychotherapy support. Persons who require mental health support in the community can also tap on mental health services provided at polyclinics. The number of patients who were attended to by psychologist at polyclinics and hospitals was approximately 20,200 in 2016, 21,600 in 2017 and 22,300 in 2018 [2]. 

3.    In addition, community intervention teams have been established to support GP partners and community service providers with allied health services such as psycho-social therapeutic intervention, counselling and psycho-education.

4.     MOH will continue to work with public hospitals and service providers in the community, including schools, social service agencies and family service centres, to provide holistic and timely support for persons with mental healthcare needs.  

[1] To be employed as a Clinical Psychologist with public healthcare institutions, psychology graduates are required to pursue further studies in clinical psychology, at the masters or PhD qualification level. Locally, training is done at both the National University of Singapore (NUS) and James Cook University (JCU), through the Master of Psychology (Clinical) programme, but only the NUS programme is on the HGSA-approved list for local programmes as JCU’s global ranking is poorer.

[2] Source: Hospital data and Ministry of Health (MOH) data.

Category: Parliamentary QA