​Singapore's main training programme for general practitioners (GPs) to get certified in family medicine will, for the first time, undergo an "intensive upgrade".

The revamp of the two-year graduate diploma in family medicine is driven by a growing need for primary-care doctors who can deal with the myriad health issues brought about by a greying society.

The new curriculum - which will feature new aspects including transitional care and extra training specific to facilities like nursing homes - is to take effect next year, the College of Family Physicians Singapore (CFPS) told The Straits Times.

The college oversees the development of family medicine here.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said it is working with the college to "review and enhance" the programme in "key areas of national priority". They include chronic disease management, geriatric care, mental health and community hospital practice, said an MOH spokesman.

This comes as a record 169 doctors enrolled in the course last year. This is up from the 114 sign-ups in 2014, and 98 in 2011.

While the course - which started in 2000 - is regularly updated to keep its content current, the latest review will be far more extensive.

Associate Professor Lee Kheng Hock, president of CFPS, said: "This time, we are carrying out a major upgrade where we will make the course more relevant in view of the changing needs of our community and the enhanced role of family doctors in the healthcare system."

A committee comprising 17 senior family physicians across public and private sectors is carrying out the review, which will be completed in about three months.

Prof Lee added: "The teaching faculty will implement the new curriculum in the next academic year in 2018."

Today, about 2,600 doctors provide primary care in Singapore. As of the end of last year, 1,750 family physicians count among them.

Singapore will need 3,500 family physicians by 2030, said the MOH spokesman. This is based on preliminary projections.

Family physicians provide comprehensive care for a person, in the context of his family and the community he lives in. They are trained to manage both acute and chronic ailments - a dislocated shoulder and diabetes, for instance - and prevent them from spiralling into complications.

To be accredited as one, a doctor may obtain the graduate diploma. It is a part-time course that includes workshops and case discussions.

The other path is a three-year residency offered by public healthcare groups. Started in 2011, the full-time programme involves clinical rotations in hospitals and polyclinics.

Some overseas certifications are also recognised.

Prof Lee said the revamped curriculum will feature new areas of focus, such as integrated care and transitional care, where a person moves from one healthcare facility to another, or back home.

"There will also be additional training to boost the competency of family doctors in certain settings, such as nursing homes, community hospitals and home care," said Prof Lee, who is also the medical director of Bright Vision Hospital.

More emphasis will be placed on caring for older people and managing patients who are recently discharged from hospitals, he added.

Family physician S. Suraj Kumar said the diploma course revamp is "definitely timely".

"The problems of an ageing population are already here; we have to gear up to meet the challenges," said Dr Suraj, who works at Drs Bain & Partners, a private practice.

The 58-year-old, who completed the diploma about eight years ago, said it was an "important first step" in learning how to deliver more well-rounded care. He has gone on to obtain a master's degree and fellowship in family medicine.

"My level of care has improved. I became very confident in identifying problems that I might not have done previously," he added.

You can read the original article here: The Straits Times - Family Medicine Course For GPs To Be Revamped.pdf