1. Good morning everybody. I am delighted to be here today at the 31st Singapore Pharmacy Congress.
2. The theme of this year’s congress is “Emerging Healthcare in a Brave New World!”. Healthcare has and will be constantly challenged. I would like to thank the pharmacy profession for your courage and solidarity in supporting our whole healthcare system, embracing innovation and digital transformation, and for your contributions in improving the health of our nation.
Innovation and Impact on Pharmacy Services
3. A secure and resilient medication supply chain is critical to any healthcare system. The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) was instrumental in ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated and made available for the public in a timely manner over the last two years. This February, we celebrated the achievement of HSA having attained Maturity Level (ML) 4 for their advanced medicines regulatory system. With this recognition, the public can have greater confidence and trust in our medicines and regulatory system that we have here in Singapore.
4. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will continue to work with HSA and our partners in the community and industry to raise regulatory standards and safety for pharmaceutical products, health supplements and traditional medicines.
5. In Singapore, health supplements and traditional medicines are commonly taken. To further protect public health and safety, HSA is launching a voluntary notification initiative for health supplements and traditional medicines. This allows companies to voluntarily notify HSA of these products that are available locally. Companies have to demonstrate that their products meet the necessary safety and quality standards, and the labelling requirements. Products that are compliant with HSA’s standards will then be included in an online database on HSA’s website. So, this database will be helpful for consumers and will also enable better traceability of these products by HSA.
6. HSA is launching this initiative with the industry’s support and it will be rolled out in phases. The first phase will comprise commonly purchased products, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as products that have a higher risk of adulteration, such as those for weight loss, pain relief and ‘male vitality enhancement’. Companies may start to submit their documents for these products from 1 August 2022. HSA will gradually include other product categories in subsequent phases. Ultimately, we hope to establish a local database of safe complementary health products. We hope pharmacists will play an important role in supporting this initiative by advising patients and consumers to refer to this database when considering suitable health supplements and traditional medicines.
7. To support fellow pharmacists in other ways, the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore (PSS)’s Young Pharmacists Chapter (YPC) launched the YPC Sandbox with the theme of “Sustainable Pharmacy in Singapore” in January this year. The Sandbox aimed to encourage innovation and collaboration in pharmacy nationwide. YPC has also hosted a series of activities and talks to kickstart creativity and strengthen project management skills within the pharmacy community. With this, PSS has awarded the first winner of the YPC sandbox in April 2022, and together with the professional support and the seed funding awarded, the project group will be exploring novel methods to reduce medicine packaging waste.
8. There is a growing need to meet increasing expectations from the public for convenient and accessible care as well as integrating technology into pharmacy. Singapore welcomed its first HSA-registered e-Pharmacy earlier this year, providing a digital platform where doctors can give e-prescriptions to patients, and have the medications delivered to their home. Digital technology has also been harnessed for training the pharmacy workforce. For example, PSS, in collaboration with the Singapore General Hospital Pharmacy Team, has developed a national virtual aseptic compounding training programme for healthcare professionals. This initiative has emerged as one of the winners of the InnovPlus Challenge 2022. I hope pharmacists will continue to explore opportunities to improve practice using digital tools.
Enabling Pharmacy Workforce and Empowering the Public to Meet Future Healthcare Needs
9. An important part of what you do and what we have to help you do, is thw engagement with the public. In April this year, under the National Pharmacy Strategy, the National Drug Formulary (NDF) website was launched. With more than 1,600 drug monographs and information for about 5,400 items at launch, this online resource will be regularly updated, providing healthcare professionals a concise summary of consolidated drug and clinical information. The NDF is a resource of Singapore-specific information. it links registered drugs to subsidy information, provides local drug guidance and their general availability in public healthcare institutions. This improves accessibility to relevant and localised information, facilitating the smooth transition of care when patients move across care settings and providers. And very importantly, the public can access the NDF website and this supports the discussion of medication-related questions with patients and consumers, thus promoting patient education and empowerment in the important work that you do with the public.
10. The public must have access to reliable information. MOH collaborated with PSS to develop the “Know Your Meds” series of videos and infographics. This will enhance medication literacy, which will empower patients and caregivers with basic skills to manage their medications independently. The series covers how to keep track of medication that patients are taking, the indications and the correct ways to take their medications and much more. This series is now made available on the MOH website.
11. Pharmacists have an important role to support patients. You have the opportunity to be key community partners and this includes in our efforts around Healthier SG, which will focus on better health and quality of life for our population.
Continual Training of Pharmacy Workforce and Nurturing Leaders
12. The development of pharmacy technicians is equally important as they work side by side with pharmacists to support the pharmacy operations. The PSS Certified Pharmacy Technician Course, now called the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Advanced Certificate in Healthcare (Pharmacy Support), has been granted SkillsFuture funding. The course, which commenced on 4 July 2022, was well-received and saw the enrolment of 32 pharmacy assistants from across the various healthcare institutions in Singapore. The new curriculum will equip these pharmacy assistants with the necessary competencies to perform their future roles as pharmacy technicians, and to do so with confidence. In parallel, the Pharmacy Technicians Community of Practice will be launching its first Telegram Channel later today, to encourage the professionals to stay in touch with each other, to share ideas, and to support each other.
Wellbeing of Pharmacy Workforce
13. In this vein, the well-being of our pharmacy workforce is very important. This was why the PharmForce initiative was set up in March this year. This initiative will address issues such as burn-out, and will also provide a way for pharmacy leaders to contribute to policy-making.
14. Chief Pharmacist Associate Professor Camilla Wong will be sharing more about this initiative at the plenary session later this afternoon.
15. We will face challenges ahead. COVID-19 was one and has been well-described. It won’t be the last major test for our healthcare system. Some of the challenges we impose on ourselves, one example is Healthier SG – to transform primary healthcare sector. It will be a challenge to get this work done, it is important work, and most important things are of course difficult to do. But we will do this together. It is our team work, coming together as healthcare professionals and government in partnership together to serve our patients, that will deliver the best possible, high-quality and sustainable healthcare for Singapore.
16. I wish everyone a fruitful Congress. Thank you.