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LCQ7: Consultation time of out-patient services of Hospital Authority
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 1):


     It has been reported that the Hospital Authority set up a task force in 2008 to follow up on the issue of excessively short average consultation time per patient in its public hospitals and clinics, and at the same time commissioned The Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct a two-year study and to recommend a reasonable length of consultation time. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(1) the reasons why the findings of the aforesaid study have not yet been published by the Hospital Authority so far and whether they will be published expeditiously; if so, when they will be published; and

(2) whether the Hospital Authority will introduce measures to increase the average consultation time per patient in public hospitals and clinics; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen on the consultation time of the Hospital Authority (HA) is as follows:
(1) In order to enhance the quality of its primary care services, the HA commissioned the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2008 to conduct a review of the development, positioning and staff training of its general out-patient (GOP) services for internal reference purpose. The review did not cover whether a reasonable length of consultation time for GOP services should be set. As the review was intended for the HA's internal reference, its findings have not been published. The HA has, however, implemented a range of improvement measures for its GOP services in the light of the findings, such as increasing the quotas for GOP services, introducing services provided by multi-disciplinary teams of healthcare professionals for the management of chronic diseases and strengthening staff training. Members of the public have been informed of such measures through various channels.

(2) Regarding the GOP services, the HA provided more than 600 000 additional attendances in the period from 2012-13 to 2016-17. The consultation time per patient has also increased gradually. The average consultation time was about 6.7 minutes in 2008. Since 2014, the HA has adopted a planning parameter of eight minutes when planning for additional GOP services, representing an improvement of up to 20 per cent. Moreover, the Coordinating Committee in Family Medicine of the HA reviews the consultation time on a regular basis with a view to striking a balance between healthcare manpower and service needs of patients.

     As for specialist out-patient (SOP) services, the SOP clinics of the HA provides specialist services for patients referred by medical practitioners registered in Hong Kong. During consultations, specialists conduct necessary examinations and provide appropriate treatments for patients according to their clinical conditions. The actual amount of consultation time varies with the clinical conditions of each patient and the complexity of each case. Generally speaking, the consultation time for new cases is longer than that for old ones. Given Hong Kong's ageing population and rising prevalence of chronic diseases, there is an ever-increasing demand for SOP services. These factors, coupled with the inadequate supply of healthcare manpower, have resulted in the extension of working hours of healthcare staff providing SOP services in order for them to meet the mounting service needs. To enhance service capacity, the HA will continue to actively employ additional doctors in different specialties and part-time doctors. Suitable serving doctors who are going to reach the retirement age of 60 or complete their contracts will also be re-employed to perform clinical duties and help train young doctors.
Ends/Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:00
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