A recent survey found that more than four in five Singaporeans surveyed are satisfied with the service they have received, but identified wait times as one key area for improvement.

The survey enquired about of seven distinct factors of healthcare: doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, care coordination, facilities, waiting time, and billing issues. Meanwhile, a warning has been issued by the top GP in Britain about ridiculously long waiting times faced by patients seeking non-emergency treatments.

Improvements seen across healthcare sectors

In Singapore, the survey reported that 85.9% of patients are happy with the service standards in 2015, which represented a 6.8% increase from 2014, per the Health Ministry’s latest Patient Satisfaction Survey done from the period of November 2015 to February 2016. There were a total of 12,469 responses gathered.

In the survey, 90.8% of respondents ranked Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as the best in the hospital category. The hospital that ranked the worst was Singapore General Hospital, with 80.8%.

In the polyclinic category, 97.1% of happy patients rated Bukit Batok Polyclinic as the best Polyclinic. The polyclinic that received the lowest score was Sengkang Polyclinic, with 74.5%.

Waiting times identified as important by patients

Of the top four pointers that patients were most concerned with were the waiting time needed to “see doctor”, “get medication”, “get appointment, and “get bed at A&E”. All these pointers were identified by more than 90% of respondents as being the top two most important areas for improvements.

Another independent survey done by the Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University (ISES) looking at customer satisfaction had differing results as compared to the health ministry’s survey. They had reported than the healthcare sector had recorded a marginal drop of 2%. In the report, they had attributed the drop to three of five sub-sectors.

The three sub-factors that declined are the general practitioner sub-sector, the healthcare providers sub-sector (which includes dental and TCM clinics), and the restructured hospital sub-sector.

Sub-sectors with improved scores are the polyclinic sub-sectors and the private hospital sub-sector.

In Singapore, the longest waiting time for Polyclinic registration and consultation for the month of November 2016, as reported by the Health Ministry, are 50 minutes at Bedok Polyclinic and 113 minutes at Queenstown Polyclinic respectively. In contrast, the shortest waiting times for registration and consultations are nine minutes at Toa Payoh and 41 minutes at Jurong Polyclinic respectively.

For admissions to the emergency department, the hospital that was consistently the most efficient was Changi General Hospital, and the hospital that consistently required the longest wait was Tan Tock Seng Hospital, based upon the median waiting time.

Extremely long waiting times in United Kingdom

Despite concerns by Singaporeans, our wait times are relatively low, when compared to the wait times faced by Britons - of up to four weeks - as warned by Britain’s top GP on 28 December. Such wait times could potentially manifest into a “tragedy”, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs.

She also emphasised that these extended waiting times now pose a “serious risk” to thousands of patients as it meant that conditions that were not life-threatening may become hazardous to health due to the prolonged wait. She revealed that some patients were forced to wait three weeks for certain non-urgent health concerns, such as lumps or bleeding problems.

“Extended waiting times pose a serious risk because of all those unintended consequences,” said Stokes-Lampard. She added that she was “profoundly concerned," and particularly worried about the demographic that suffered from chronic diseases like heart problems and diabetes, as GPs “firefight” with patients with urgent issues.

Wilmington Healthcare has a suggestion to mitigate frivolous trips to the hospital’s emergency department: Stationing GPs at the A&E departments of the NHS to identify patients with mild symptoms who opt to pay a visit to the emergency department instead of visiting the GP first. This measure is supported by 60% of doctors surveyed, as they believe that this would be key towards reducing the unacceptably long wait times faced at Britain’s A&Es.

"Inappropriate A&E attendances should be redirected to primary care services for review and patients should be given education at the same time,” one doctor said.

The long waiting times for the GPs and at the A&E departments have been further compounded by a multitude of factors, such as ever increasing patient demands, a chronic shortage of GPs, and a crisis in recruitment of doctors. MIMS

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