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Supervised discharge orders were introduced in April 1996. This paper describes two national surveys of their use in all mental health provider trusts in England. Data were collected from key informants in mental health provider trusts using a postal survey in 1997, and a follow-up telephone survey in 1998.
The total number of patients subject to supervised discharge in 1997 was 160, a mean of one per trust. In 1998, there were 378 cases, a mean of two cases per trust. The annual period prevalence in 1998 can be estimated as 510 cases, approximately one per 100000 total population per year. Seventeen applications of the ‘power to convey’ were identified.
Supervised discharge is regarded as suitable for very few patients, though its use is growing. The controversial power to convey is seldom used in practice and barriers to its use are described.
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