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We thank Dr Ho Ting Fei for her letter (Medical Council, tribunal ill-prepared to handle some cases fairly, Aug 5).
The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is looking at ways to better support the disciplinary processes. SMC is also developing sentencing guidelines, through the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, to ensure that sentences meted out in medical disciplinary cases are consistent and fair. 

In addition, the Ministry of Health had appointed a separate Workgoup in March 2019 to review the SMC’s disciplinary process to enhance and improve upon the regulatory regime for medical practitioners. Among the measures the Workgroup is considering is to enhance the training given to the Complaints Committee (CC) and Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) members in basic medical law, evidence gathering and the investigative procedure, and judgement drafting. The Workgroup also plans to create a standing panel of experts or a single joint expert to address feedback on the difficulty in obtaining expert evidence.

The Workgroup has canvassed the views of medical practitioners from across a diverse practice background and the public, and the recommendations are expected to be ready by the end of the year.

For these recommendations to work well and to maintain self-regulation by the profession, there must be a pool of doctors who are willing to provide expert opinions and commit their time to serve in the CCs and to provide the range of medical expertise required as members of DTs.
The SMC deeply appreciates the doctors who have devoted their time and energy to serving as experts, and on CCs and DTs. SMC is committed to strengthening its structure and governance to better equip CCs and DTs to properly assess the cases before them.

The procedures of appeal allow a further avenue of impartial assessment, as has happened in Dr Lim Lian Arn’s case, although the High Court upheld the DT’s decision in the other case that Dr Ho referred to in her letter, and reinforced its position on this case when issuing the judgement in Dr Lim’s appeal.

We seek the medical community’s continued support alongside the SMC so that more in the profession will be encouraged to volunteer to uphold the standards of practice within the medical profession and maintain the trust and confidence that have been placed upon us by our patients. 

Professor Tan Ser Kiat
Singapore Medical Council