Each S'pore resident to have own family doctor as 'first line of care' from 2023: MOH

This initiative is part of a national primary care enrolment programme.

Syahindah Ishak | March 10, 2022, 04:48 PM

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Each resident in Singapore will be able to have a family doctor as their "first line of care" from 2023.

In a press release on Wednesday (Mar. 9), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that this initiative is part of the 'National Healthier SG' enrolment programme.

How it works

Each resident will be invited to enrol with a family physician of their choice.

The family physician would support them across their life-course for different health needs and care episodes to ensure continuity of care.

Coordinated by three healthcare workers

The national enrolment programme will be coordinated by three healthcare clusters, MOH said.

Each cluster will look after a region of up to 1.5 million residents and work with family physicians and other partners in the region to engage the residents and strengthen care for them.

Family physicians may work with the polyclinic or hospital in the management of patients with more complex needs.

Upon discharge, hospitals would refer patients to the family physician they are enrolled with to ensure continuity of care.

There could also be shared care between family physicians and specialists or other allied health professionals to jointly support patients based on their care needs.

Geographical approach

A geographical approach will also be used to enrol residents so that each individual can get care and support near where they live.

Currently, close to nine in 10 residents visit a family physician or hospital near their home, as stated by MOH.

MOH added that it would preserve individual choice in enrolling with a family physician, even if the doctor is practising far away from their home and/or operates in an area that is coordinated by another healthcare cluster.

Even after enrolment, individuals can make changes when the need arises, such as if they move to a new house.

Probably start with those aged 40 and above

Speaking at the Committee of Supply debates in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar. 9), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung explained that the enrolment programme will probably start with those in their 40s and older, the age when chronic illnesses may start to set in.

"We will have to build up the participation base progressively," Ong said.

He then cited the National Steps Challenge that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) rolled out, which managed to recruit 900,000 participants.

"We hope Healthier SG can be even more successful than that," he added.

Ong subsequently said:

"I want to specifically highlight the importance of this collaboration between healthcare clusters and the family doctors. It is a very important nexus, because the family doctors will receive support from hospitals, in looking after residents with more complex needs. Hospitals after discharging a patient can refer them back to the family doctor.

This is exactly what we did during Covid-19. It works and there will be seamless co-ordination and continuity of care."

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Top image via National University Hospital (NUH)/ Facebook.