Background: Supervised Discharge Orders (SDOs) were introduced in 1995, as an amendment to the Mental Health Act in England and Wales. They require patients to abide by specific conditions on discharge from hospital, but can not enforce medication compliance. On introduction, SDOs were received with scepticism by the psychiatric profession. The purpose of this study was to describe the use of SDOs in England and the characteristics of patients made subject to these orders, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the order in securing treatment compliance on discharge from hospital.
Method: A survey was conducted of 170 mental health provider Trusts in England. Interviews with senior managers in 12 Trusts and associated Local Authorities were subjected to qualitative analysis, and a cohort of patients subject to SDOs in 56 randomly sampled Trusts was described.
Results: SDOs were being used for 596 patients (1.2 per 100,000 total population) at the survey date in 1999, and use had been increasing steadily since its introduction. The order is not systematically considered for all potential cases. The majority of the 182 patients in the cohort had complied, if sometimes intermittently, with conditions of the order.
Conclusions: For patients compliant with SDOs, the pressures necessary to treat effectively need not involve powers to enforce medication compliance.