• Vol. 37 No. 2, 128–131
  • 15 February 2008

Providing Integrated Mental Health Services in the Singapore Primary Care Setting – the General Practitioner Psychiatric Programme Experience



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Introduction: The aim of our programme was to right site a selected group of patients to the care of the primary sector for follow-up management. Mental disorders are recognised as a major public health problem worldwide which places an enormous burden on health services. Patients on treatment in the hospitals are largely managed by specialists either in the restructured hospitals or in private practice with minimal involvement of general practitioners (GPs). Yet, there are many patients with chronic mental illnesses who are stable, require maintenance medications and are best managed in the community.

Strategies: GPs were given appropriate training and support to help them manage patients with mental illnesses in their clinics. The training involved in-depth, comprehensive training on mental illness, providing the GPs with the skills necessary to manage the stable patients within the community. It also facilitated Early Detection Intervention by enhancing the GPs capabilities to detect and manage the mentally ill. Patients screened by psychiatrists who fulfill the referral criteria agreed upon by both the specialist team and the GP partners were referred to the GPs with initial support from case managers when required. The benefits to patients include: increased convenience, savings in terms of transport costs and travel time, the flexibility of being seen during after office hours, less stigma and the option of managing their other medical conditions, if any, by the same doctor.

Results: To date, a total of 200 patients have been successfully referred to the 30 GPs in the programme. This represents an average savings of more than 1000 consultation visits to the hospital per year.

Conclusion: The programme allows for the right siting of care for patients and allows the hospital to channel precious resources to more appropriate uses.

Mental disorders are recognised as a major public health problem worldwide, and the management of mental health problems places an enormous burden on health services.

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