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    What Does Mhca 2...
   Why These Clauses?
    Aims of Discharg...
   Involve the Family
    Arranging Other ...
   Some Essential Steps
    Addressing the R...
   Leave of Absence
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 Table of Contents    
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 10  |  Page : 706-709
Discharge planning and Mental Healthcare Act 2017

1 Department of Psychiatry, Spandana Health Care, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, St. Thomas Hospital, Changanassery, Kerala, India

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Date of Web Publication8-Apr-2019


Mental Healthcare Act 2017 mandates that proper discharge planning should be done and documented before any discharge is done from MHEs. Discharge planning should be based on a thorough assessment of the needs of the patient. Family should be actively involved in the planning process. Necessary steps should be taken for referral to other services, especially those in the community. Discharge planning helps us to balance the goals of the treatment at admission, to reality check at the time of discharge. Adequacy of discharge planning can be ensured by using various published checklists.

Keywords: Discharge planning, Mental Healthcare Act 2017, Mental Health Professional

How to cite this article:
Gowda M, Gajera G, Srinivasa P, Ameen S. Discharge planning and Mental Healthcare Act 2017. Indian J Psychiatry 2019;61, Suppl S4:706-9

How to cite this URL:
Gowda M, Gajera G, Srinivasa P, Ameen S. Discharge planning and Mental Healthcare Act 2017. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Sep 19];61, Suppl S4:706-9. Available from:

   Introduction Top

After an in-patient stay and an improvement in their symptoms, patients with mental illness may have concerns and dilemma about the postdischarge life. They may find their future unclear and themselves vulnerable. Factors such as the lack of insight, lack of social support, poor quality of the patient-doctor relationship, and mistaken conclusions that the medications were not needed, and poor awareness about the illness often contribute to noncompliance to treatment after discharge.[1],[2],[3] Such noncompliance leads to a worsening of the symptoms; increased risk of assault, dangerous behavior, and attempted or completed suicide; more extended hospital stay; high costs; and decrease in the quality of life and impaired functioning.[1],[4] The juncture of discharge should be considered a significant event and also an integral part of the treatment process. Discharge planning is “a formal process that leads to the development of an ongoing, individualized program of care and support which meets the objectively assessed needs of a patient/consumer on leaving the hospital. It addresses the social, cultural, therapeutic, and educational interventions necessary to safeguard and enhance that person's health and well-being in the community.”[5]

   What Does Mhca 2017 Say? Top

Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA) 2017[6] speaks about discharge planning in the following sections.

Section 98.1

“Whenever a person undergoing treatment for mental illness in a mental health establishment (MHE) is to be discharged into the community or to a different MHE or where a new psychiatrist is to take responsibility of the person's care and treatment, the psychiatrist who has been responsible for the person's care and treatment shall consult with the person with mental illness, the nominated representative, the family member or caregiver with whom the person with mental illness shall reside on discharge from the hospital, the psychiatrist expected to be responsible for the person's care and treatment in future, and such other persons as may be appropriate, as to what treatment or services would be appropriate for the person.”

Section 98.2

“The psychiatrist responsible for the person's care shall in consultation with the person above referred, ensure that a plan is developed as to how treatment or services shall be provided to the person with mental illness.”

Section 98.3

“The discharge planning under this section shall apply to all discharges (under section 86, 87, 89, 90) from a MHE.”

Thus, MHCA specifies that the treating psychiatrist should decide, in consultation with all relevant parties, what interventions will be needed for a person with mental illness after the discharge and how those interventions would be implemented. Moreover, section 98.1 also specifies that necessary steps have to be taken not only during discharge but also when the care of the patient is being transferred to another psychiatrist or when the patient is being transferred to another MHE. Remember that, during such transfers to other MHEs, there are other formalities too to be taken care of as specified in Section 93.1, i.e., “A person with mental illness admitted to a MHE under section 87 or section 89 or section 90 or section 103, as the case may be, may subject to any general or special order of the Board be removed from such MHE and admitted to another MHE within the State or with the consent of the Central Authority to any MHE in any other State: provided that no person with mental illness admitted to an MHE under an order made in pursuance of an application made under this Act shall be so removed unless intimation and reasons for the transfer have been given to the person with mental illness and his nominated representative.”

   Why These Clauses? Top

India enacted MHCA 2017 as a consequence of it being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The above clauses in MHCA regarding discharge planning are in line with the right of the mentally ill to live independently and in the community as stated in the UNCRPD.[7] For the first time, discharge planning has been mandated by the law and treating team is made responsible and liable. Moreover, we should remember that even if MHCA or UNCRPD were not there, sound clinical practice automatically entails preparing a discharge plan for ongoing care and rehabilitation of the patient. Research has shown that psychiatric patients who receive adequate discharge planning are more likely to utilize the outpatient services, less likely to become socially isolated, and less likely to require immediate rehospitalization.[8],[9],[10]

Against this background, we searched for available literature on the practical aspects of designing and implementing an adequate discharge plan. This article summarizes the major findings.

   Aims of Discharge Planning Top

Discharge planning should be done with multiple aims in mind, the major ones being:

  • Assisting with re-entry to the community
  • Providing the support needed to sustain the progress that was achieved during the in-patient care
  • Achieving continuity and coordination of care and treatment
  • Providing and mobilizing a level of support that corresponds to what the patient would need for community living
  • Minimizing the chances of relapse or immediate return to the hospital
  • Preventing homelessness, suicide and/or being criminalized
  • Ensuring early intervention during crisis and relapse
  • Optimal health and well-being of the patient.[5]

   Assessment Top

For the discharge planning to be effective, an assessment of the specific needs of that particular patient should be first performed. Some domains that need attention during the assessment include:

  • Capacity for self-care: assess the patient's capacity, insight, and perception toward the psychiatric illness. This will help us understand their current levels of functioning and the potential need for support and assistance. Frequent assessment of the symptoms during the inpatient stay will help in knowing whether the illness is responding to the treatment and in recognizing chances of self-harm or aggressiveness in the immediate postdischarge period. Assess whether the patient has the resources and ability to access the medications that are being prescribed and to travel for the follow-up appointments. This is especially important as difficult to travel is a major reason for nonadherence.[11] Furthermore, assess what all strengths the patient has that would help him/her in future in handling the illness and the various aspects of its treatment
  • Clinical needs: identify the potential predisposing factors that can lead to distress or relapse. The patient should be informed about the importance of sleep hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle modification, anticipated adverse effects of the medication, and duration of treatment. Appraise the patient about the early warning signs and teach them appropriate techniques to cope with those factors and instruct them to immediately come for follow-up whenever such factors become too severe to handle on their own. Furthermore, assess the family's understanding of the illness and its treatment and the family's needs related to the illness. Identify the immediate caregiver who can manage the emergency
  • Other needs: assess domains such as socioeconomic, cultural, and spiritual. Discuss where the patient would stay after the discharge: the levels of support available and needed, the wishes and decisions of the patient and the family, and the recommendations if any the treating team has in this regard should be taken into account, and a consensus arrived at through discussions between all the relevant parties.[5],[12]

For each area of identified need, a statement should be made about the service to be provided or the action to be taken.

   Involve the Family Top

It is essential to keep the patient's family in the loop, especially in closed ward settings where the patient is admitted without any bystanders. The patient's progress during the hospital stay and how ready they are for discharge should be periodically discussed with the family. One study pointed out that satisfaction in discharge planning drops when there is no contact between the staff and the family regarding discharge.[13] Discharge planning meeting(s), in which the patient and carers also take part and reveal their views, is another useful step. The date of discharge can be planned as per the convenience of both the patient and the caregivers. A study found that a higher percentage of patients who took part in collaborative discharge planning meetings became involved in aftercare services compared to those who did not attend such meetings.[14] Expressed emotion from the caregiver should be handled carefully and they should be encouraged to facilitate the support and care which can lead to positive outcome during the community living.

   Arranging Other Services Top

Community services available near the person's area can be utilized for crisis management, supervision, support, compliance check, etc. We should evaluate such services and examine which ones will best match the particular needs of a specific patient. Help should be provided to the patient and the family to establish initial contact with such services. We can also share help-line numbers for police, law, hospital, emergency contact, suicide prevention, etc.

If necessary, community-based services such as half-way homes and group homes should be recommended to the patient if they are available, as they can provide sufficient care and support required during the period of transition to community living. Patients may also require a referral for medical care for medical comorbidities. Support groups such as alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous, al-anon, schizophrenia group, and other self-help groups can assist the patient to sustain the recovery, and details of such organizations may be provided to patients and family. Patients should also be informed about relevant government policies and programs and prevailing benefits. Medical certificate and other required documentation should be provided to the patient for referral.

   Some Essential Steps Top

Discharge planning should begin immediately after admission and be updated throughout the inpatient stay.[15] We should ensure that the discharge plan sufficiently addresses the practical and social reasons that influenced the admission. For example if a schizophrenia patient has been re-admitted due to relapse following medication noncompliance since he is living alone, or if a female patient with severe depression has a husband who suffers from alcoholism, such issues should be addressed during the discharge planning.

   Addressing the Rights of a Person With Mental Illness Top

We should attempt to educate the patient about the changes in the mental health act. The discussion should include the planning of an advance directive and nominated representative. They should also be informed about the rights of a person who has a mental illness: specifically, the right to confidentiality, the right to access medical records, and the right to legal aid. Clarification about the release of medical records and its restriction should also be considered, when applicable. They should be aware of the Mental Health Review Board (MHRB), its function, and its involvement at the levels of admission, discharge, authorization for the advance directive, nominated representative, raising a query, etc.[16]

   Leave of Absence Top

Section 91 of MHCA 2017 mentions that the person can be given “leave of absence” from the MHE subject to such conditions if any, and for such duration as such medical officer or psychiatrist may consider necessary. Leave can be utilized as a step ahead of discharge for admission under section 87, 89, and 90. We can stress upon the issues related to noncompliance, aggression, impulsivity, and other reasons which leads to the admission. It is an observation period, where the family can note the improvement and the responsibilities performed by the patient. In the absence of community treatment option in MHCA, this provision can be considered to ensure that the goal of the treatment and admission are achieved in the community as well.

   Documentation Top

In the era of MHCA, documentation of all clinical decisions and actions is extremely important, and this applies to discharge planning too. At the time of discharge, the patient should be given a copy of the completed discharge instructions that include recovery goals, possible relapse signs, ways to deal with them, and the details of whom to contact in case of emergency. It should contain the name of the patient and signature of the treating psychiatrist so that it will not look like a “generic” plan but one customized for the particular patient. A copy of the discharge instructions should be stored in the patient's file as well as sent to everyone involved in providing support to the person after discharge, with documented authorization for release of information. The medical records should also contain documentation about the patients' cognitive intactness and the capacity for mental illness related decision. It should also be documented that the patient understands and agrees with the discharge plan, including the medications and the follow-up details.[15] It would be a good practice to use the regional language wherever applicable.

As a part of the obligation under MHCA 2017, chapter 3, section 10, the treating team should propose for planning advance directive, nominated representative, and document his/her understanding about illness and need for medication. It should include the measure to be taken in case of relapse and noncompliance to medications. The patient should be educated about the various treatment options such as oral and injectable medication, electroconvulsive therapy, repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and psychotherapy and their preferences should be enquired about. Furthermore, preauthorization for proxy consultation will help the clinician to identify the caregiver for future reference. This would ease the follow-up procedure and maintaining compliance for the patient as well as the caregiver. The grievances faced by the patient and caregiver should be addressed and directed to the MHRB whenever necessary.

Routine use of any of the available checklists would ensure that no points are missed, especially in busy settings. The options include discharge knowledge assessment tool,[17] discharge checklist,[18] patient activation assessment form,[19] hospital discharge checklist,[20] and taking care of myself guide.[21]

   Some Limitations Top

MHCA 2017 mandates the discharge planning to be done before any discharge from an MHE. For a few cases such as immediate voluntary discharge, disagreement of the treatment plan, an absence of capacity to consent for psychiatric illness, discharge against medical advice or other emergency condition, adequate planning may not be possible. Rather, these are the situations which require maximum planning and support, leading to a more grievous condition. Furthermore, insufficiency of community psychiatric services and care homes limit the possibilities of providing community support following discharge.

   Conclusion Top

Discharge planning is a mandatory procedure as per the MHCA 2017. We could use this opportunity to verify and document the goal set at the time of admission and target achieved at the time of discharge. It can be a patient-friendly and highly practical approach to guide them and improve their quality of life and mental health in the community. It can also reduce the burden of family and caregiver. Thus, proper discharge planning can improve the outcome and prognosis of the person with mental illness.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Montes JM, Maurino J, Diez T, Saiz-Ruiz J. Telephone-based nursing strategy to improve adherence to antipsychotic treatment in schizophrenia: A controlled trial. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract 2010;14:274-81.  Back to cited text no. 1
Razali SM. Prevention of relapse and interventions for enhancing medication adherence in schizophrenia: An East Asian perspective. Asia Pac Psychiatry 2010;2:68-76.  Back to cited text no. 2
Brondolo E, Mas F. Cognitive-behavioural strategies for improving medication adherence in patients with bipolar disorder. Cogn Behav Pract 2001;8:137-47.  Back to cited text no. 3
Vuckovich PK. Compliance versus adherence in serious and persistent mental illness. Nurs Ethics 2010;17:77-85.  Back to cited text no. 4
Ministry of Health. Guidelines for Discharge Planning for People with Mental Illness; 1993. Available from:$file/Discharge%20planning.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Feb 03].  Back to cited text no. 5
The Mental Healthcare Act; 2017. Available from:,%202017.pdf. [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 6
Malhotra S, Shah R. Leave and discharge: Legalising science of psychiatry and the art of caregiving! Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2015;31:134-40.  Back to cited text no. 7
Fernando ML, Velamoor VR, Cooper AJ, Cernovsky Z. Some factors relating to satisfactory post-discharge community maintenance of chronic psychotic patients. Can J Psychiatry 1990;35:71-3.  Back to cited text no. 8
Caton CL, Koh SP, Fleiss JL, Barrow S, Goldstein JM. Rehospitalization in chronic schizophrenia. J Nerv Ment Dis 1985;173:139-48.  Back to cited text no. 9
Goering P, Wasylenki D, Lancee W, Freeman SJ. From hospital to community. Six-month and two-year outcomes for 505 patients. J Nerv Ment Dis 1984;172:667-73.  Back to cited text no. 10
Roy R, Jahan M, Kumari S, Chakraborty PK. Reasons for drug non-compliance of psychiatric patients: A centre based study. J Indian Acad Appl Psychol 2005;31:24-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. Discharge Planning for Patients Hospitalized for Mental Health Treatment: Interpretative Guidelines for Oregon Hospitals; 2016. Available from: [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 12
Perreault M, Tardif H, Provencher H, Paquin G, Desmarais J, Pawliuk N, et al. The role of relatives in discharge planning from psychiatric hospitals: The perspective of patients and their relatives. Psychiatr Q 2005;76:297-315.  Back to cited text no. 13
Altman H. A collaborative approach to discharge planning for chronic mental patients. Hosp Community Psychiatry 1983;34:641-2.  Back to cited text no. 14
Alghzawi HM. Psychiatric Discharge Process. ISRN Psychiatry; 2012. Available from: [Last accessed on 2019 Feb 03].  Back to cited text no. 15
Mental Healthcare Rules 9Rights of the Person Suffering with Mental Illness; 2018. Available from: les/ Final%20Draft%20Rules%20MHC%20Act%2C%202017%20%281%29.pdf. [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 16
Khanbhai Y, Nance M, Smith D. The development and implementation of a discharge checklist for psychiatric inpatients: A pilot study. Australas Psychiatry 2018;26:259-62.  Back to cited text no. 18
Patient Activation form. Available from: [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 19
Hospital Discharge Checklist. Available from: [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 20
Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital. Available from: goinghomeguide.pdf. [Last viewed on 2019 Mar 07].  Back to cited text no. 21

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shahul Ameen
Department of Psychiatry, St. Thomas Hospital, Changanassery, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_72_19

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