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06 Jan 2020

6th Jan 2020

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Anthea Ong

Nominated MP

Question No. 1543

To ask the Minister for Health (a) what is the current median and average waiting times respectively for patients to outpatient appointments with (i) psychiatrists (ii) clinical psychologists and (iii) counsellors at Institute of Mental Health, Specialist Outpatient Clinics at restructured hospitals, polyclinics and under government-funded programmes such as Assessment and Shared Care Team (ASCAT), Community Resource Engagement and Support Team (CREST) and Community Intervention Team (COMIT), respectively; (b) what is the professional to patient ratio for each of the above professions in each of the above medical centres and programmes; and (c) what are the measures taken to reduce waiting times.

 

Written Answer


1        In 2018, the average overall median waiting time for new subsidised appointments across the public hospitals was 27 days[1] to see a psychiatrist, and 28 days[2] to see a psychologist.  However, anyone requiring urgent mental health assistance or who wishes to see a psychiatrist, may contact the Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) 24-hour Mental Health Helpline[3] or seek medical help at the 24-hour Emergency Services located at IMH.  MOH does not have specific numbers of counsellors practising in Singapore as many healthcare professionals and social workers provide counselling as part of their work.  For cases requiring community support, patients can be referred to Community Outreach Teams and Community Intervention Teams, and these cases are usually contacted within two weeks.

2        There are around 248[4] psychiatrists and 473[5] psychologists practicing in Singapore, which translates to 4.4 psychiatrists and 8.3[6] psychologists per 100k population.  To reduce waiting time, the hospitals have implemented measures such as reviewing work processes to optimise appointment slots and efficiency of clinical operations (e.g. calling patients prior to their appointment), tightening the triaging of urgency of cases, tiering services to the appropriate level of care, and right-siting of non-emergency or more stable cases to primary and community-based care to enable specialist services to focus on more complex cases.  As of March 2019, we have set up 41 community outreach teams and, 21 allied health-led community intervention teams to provide mental health support in the community.  

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



[1] Source: MOH Statistics

[2] Source: Public Hospitals

[3] 24-hour hotline: 63892222

[4] Source: SMC 2018 Annual Report

[5] Source: Singapore Register of Psychologists, maintained by the Singapore Psychological Society

[6] As registration for practice is not compulsory for psychologists, actual numbers may be higher.