SINGAPORE - Sort pills into individual small drawers marked by a patient's photo and details, rather than place them in trays - this was an idea that 48-year-old Nicholas Chung, a senior staff nurse at the National University Hospital, developed during his stint at Bethany Methodist Nursing Home as part of a pilot initiative.

Launched on Tuesday (Sept 13), the Regional Health System Manpower Partnership will see more staff nurses and allied health professionals from hospitals being cross-deployed to nursing homes from the end of November.

It is a collaboration between the National University Health System (NUHS) and Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), and is aimed at refining care processes and models, so as to ease manpower crunch in the healthcare sector.

This will serve the demand for institutional care, which is set to increase as the number of Singaporeans aged above 65 double in the next 20 years.

Bethany Methodist Nursing Home in Chua Chu Kang, which is run by MWS, will receive its first batch of around five staff nurses and physiotherapists in end November.

The programme will be rolled out progressively to other nursing homes in the western part of Singapore, including MWS' second nursing home, which is set to open in Yew Tee in August next year (2017).

As the NUHS healthcare workers gain a better understanding of the needs of long-term care patients, they will be able to strengthen the core capabilities of nursing homes in dementia care, advance care planning and infection control, said NUHS chief executive John Eu-Li Wong.

He said: "Nursing homes are a critical component of our integrative healthcare system. These are all areas where we have knowledge and skills that we can share with them."

He added that the initiative would also enable nursing homes to better meet the Enhanced Nursing Home Standards developed by the Ministry of Health, which took effect last year (2015).

Said MWS Group executive director Jenny Bong: "One of the challenges for us is finding staff that are skilled enough to train all our staff in the nursing homes to carry out the standards, such as in pain management."

One of the advantages of the initiative, which she saw through the pilot that started in October last year, was the provision of professional supervision to junior staff in the nursing home.

As acting nurse manager during his stint, Mr Chung said: "It allows us to share our best practices, raise overall standards and encourage more nurses to be open to working in nursing homes."

The programme will be evaluated at the end of two years to determine its feasibility and scalability.