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Statutory inpatient mental health care guidance aims to speed up discharge process and help those who are autistic and/or have a learning disability

Guidance has been published under section 82 National Health Service Act 2006 which hopes to provide greater clarity to NHS bodies and local authorities in how they can work together in relation to discharge from hospital for children, young people and adults. 

The guidance aims to incorporate support in relation to the discharge process itself, funding, as well as how to ensure that a person-centred approach is taken in relation to the planning and next steps. 

The 8 main principles within the guidance

Principle 1 – individuals should be regarded as partners in their own care throughout the discharge process and their choice and autonomy should be respected.

Principle 2 – chosen carers should be involved in the discharge process as early as possible.

Principle 3 – discharge planning should start on admission or before and should take place throughout the time the person is in hospital.

Principle 4 – health and local authority social care partners should support people to be discharged in a timely and safe way as soon as they are clinically ready to leave hospital.

Principle 5 – there should be ongoing communication between hospital teams and community services involved in onward care during the admission and post-discharge.

Principle 6 – information should be shared effectively across relevant health and care teams and organisations across the system to support the best outcomes for the person.

Principle 7 – local areas should build an infrastructure that supports safe and timely discharge, ensuring the right individualised support can be provided post-discharge.

Principle 8 – funding mechanisms for discharge should be agreed to achieve the best outcomes for people and their chosen carers and should align with existing statutory duties. 

What does the guidance cover?

There is specific guidance in relation to children and young people, people with learning disabilities and autistic people, those with dementia, admitted to forensic inpatient settings, those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, people with co-occurring mental health and drug and/or alcohol conditions and those with no recourse to public funds. 

One particular point is that the duty to involve the individual and carers in discharge planning is only statutory when applying to adults. 

For children and young people, this is non-statutory guidance, although it's hoped that it will be approached the same regardless of the individual which says: “Their views and choices should be listened to, actively explored and respected and all discharge decisions must be informed by the person’s choices and preferences.”

The guidance also helpfully picks up on an issue that can lead to delays in the discharge process, that being those eligible for aftercare under section 117 Mental Health Act 1983. Under Annex B, it provides ‘national guidance on how budgets and responsibilities should be shared to pay for section 117 aftercare’. 


Whilst this guidance is welcomed in theory, it outlines what ought to have been happening already and it's only in time if we will see how effective this is for those detained and their families. 

We continue to see many cases of delayed discharges and lack of community and housing for those being discharged from hospital, particularly with those who are autistic and/or have a learning disability. 

If you or your family member is in this situation, you can find out more information at our dedicated protecting your rights section.

More information on the guidance can be found on the government website.