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Multi-pronged approach to improve palliative care services and increase awareness

We thank Dr Ng Lee Beng for highlighting the importance of palliative care, and for her suggestions on improving the provision of palliative care in Singapore (Time to re-calibrate methods of care for terminally ill, Oct 21).

The Ministry of Health has put in place support structures and services to enable our seniors to age in place in the community, and to live out their last days in dignity. Focusing on pain and symptom control, palliative care aims to improve the quality of life and provide comfort to patients and their family members at the end-of-life stage.

We have taken a multi-pronged approach to developing palliative care capacity and capabilities, as well as to raise awareness of end-of-life care.

Over the years, we have expanded care options to strengthen community-based palliative care services. As at the end of last year, there are around 3,100 home palliative care places, in addition to around 250 inpatient hospice places.

We also introduced a home-based respite care service in 2019, to allow caregivers of home palliative care patients to rest and recharge.

We recognise the important role played by our healthcare workers as they care for patients on their last leg of journey, and provide support to the family. We have invested significantly in palliative care training for healthcare workers. One example is the graduate diploma programme in palliative medicine, which has trained more than 100 doctors.

Palliative care is also a compulsory curriculum component for local medical schools, and the number of palliative care specialists has more than doubled over the past decade.

Apart from building palliative care capacity and capability, we also seek to enhance awareness of end-of-life matters. We collaborate with partners across society to initiate advance care planning conversations and conduct outreach through platforms such as roadshows, drama performances, social media and mainstream media, to reach out to different audiences.

We urge healthcare workers to join us in raising awareness of end-of-life matters in their daily interactions with patients.

We will continue our efforts to work with health and community care partners, including family physicians, to enable Singaporeans to age and leave well, according to their wishes.

Titus Lee
Director, Aged Care Services
Ministry of Health

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