Waiting Times for Mental Health Support & Professional-Patient Ratios

Parliamentary Question, 6 Jan 2020

https://blog.oup.com/2019/10/nine-articles-problems-access-mental-health-services-reading-list/

Ms Anthea Ong asked 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 © what are the measures taken to reduce waiting times.

Mr Gan Kim Yong: 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.

There are around 248[4] psychiatrists and 473[5] psychologists practising in Singapore, which translates to 4.4 psychiatrists and 8.3[6] psychologists per 100,000 population. To reduce waiting time, the hospitals have implemented measures such as reviewing work processes to optimise appointment slots and efficiency of clinical operations (for example, 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.

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.

Note(s) to Question No(s) 12:

[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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~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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