Home singapore Help mental health patients who wait ‘too long’ to see doctors in public sector, have trouble with insurance coverage: NMP

Help mental health patients who wait ‘too long’ to see doctors in public sector, have trouble with insurance coverage: NMP

Help mental health patients who wait ‘too long’ to see doctors in public sector, have trouble with insurance coverage: NMP
The waiting time to see a psychiatrist or psychologist in public healthcare institutions is far too long, a Nominated Member of Parliament saidIn his first speech in Parliament, Dr Syed Harun Alhabsyi said that patients wait more than a month for a consultation He also said that mental health patients have difficulty getting adequate insurance coverage and claims, among other obstaclesMs Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, said in response that the Government has several initiatives to promote well-being and provide early interventionAn inter-agency task force will be releasing a full report on the national strategy for this area of healthcare very soon

By Loraine Lee Published October 3, 2023 Updated October 4, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — Access to mental healthcare in Singapore needs to be enhanced further, a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) said, adding that there are long waiting times to see a psychiatrist or psychologist in the public healthcare system.

During an adjournment motion on Tuesday (Oct 3), Dr Syed Harun Alhabsyi — in his first speech as NMP — also called on the Government to look into the struggles that people with mental conditions face with their health insurance coverage and claims.

Dr Syed is a consultant psychiatrist and honorary secretary of the Singapore Psychiatric Association.

In response, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, said that the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-Being will be releasing a report on its strategy to improve the mental health of the population “in the next few days”.

The task force under the Ministry of Health (MOH) was formed in July 2021 to oversee and coordinate mental health efforts across different sectors.

Ms Rahayu said that mental health is a pressing concern and that the Government has in place initiatives to address it.

These include the Health Promotion Board’s MindSG portal, and setting up Well-being Circles to provide citizens with the skills to care for their own mental well-being and of those around them.

The Government also takes action to dispel stigma and misconception about mental health, such as through the Beyond the Label campaign by the National Council of Social Service.


Dr Syed called on the Government to invest more in mental healthcare facilities and manpower in restructured hospitals, noting that the median waiting time to see a psychiatrist was 45 days and for a psychologist, 42.

In his speech, Dr Syed also noted that cultural, religious and social influences need to be considered more in administering care to patients with mental health conditions.

“When the practice of mental healthcare is devoid of this understanding, a diagnosis could be misinformed, treatment becomes sub-optimal, medication compliance becomes poor and a willingness for treatment is lost,” he said. “In fact, it can be a barrier to seeking help altogether.” 

Dr Syed suggested that communities and religious organisations should play a part in mental healthcare but did not elaborate on how so.


For people with a history of mental health illnesses, procuring private insurance coverage for themselves can be a challenge, Dr Syed pointed out.

“For many of them, to search for alternatives beyond what is available in the public healthcare system remains both a rarity and at steep expense,” he said.

“Some find it disproportionately more challenging to secure insurance coverage even for physical health conditions, even though the specific mental health condition they have — or may have had in the past — does not necessarily bear a correlation to a prospective risk of physical ailment per se.”

Dr Syed called on the Government to study this problem and to take a deeper look at the evidence and reasons that insurance companies refuse to cover these patients, or when they charge more or make exclusions for insurance coverage relating to mental health conditions.

Even though he is “particularly optimistic” that the Workplace Fairness Legislation will protect employees from discrimination based on disability and mental health conditions, Dr Syed said that rehabilitative processes can be better handled.

Improving re-employment and re-integration of persons with mental health conditions is also an area that needs more work.

“While it is not part of accessibility of mental healthcare per se, a negative prospect of returning back to their home and livelihoods will feed into people’s fears of seeking help early, thinking that they may never return to full function and that there are few opportunities for meaningful employment after a diagnosis of mental illness,” he added.


Ms Rahayu acknowledged that good mental health is “essential” for maintaining overall health. That is why, beyond expanding healthcare capacity and training healthcare workers, MOH takes prevention efforts as well.

“This move upstream means we can avoid over-medicalising mental health conditions and instead invest our resources in the promotion of well-being and early intervention,” she said.