Measures to ensure Public Healthcare Sector has sufficient psychologists and statistics on patients who received support from psychologists

Parliamentary Question, 6 March 2020

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Ms Anthea Ong asked 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 © 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.

Mr Gan Kim Yong: The Ministry of Health (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 to 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 to 2019 figures).

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]

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.

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.

Note(s) to Question No(s)2:

[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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

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