• time;
  • accounts;
  • forensic psychiatry;
  • service users;
  • discharge


Time is a recurring feature of storied accounts of health and social care. This article addresses the use of time in accounts of conditionally discharged patients and workers in forensic psychiatry. This study contributes new knowledge about time and its uses by a seldom heard group. An analysis of time-relevant discourse taken from 59 in-depth interviews with patients and their workers is provided to show regularities and discontinuities in schedules of post-discharge supervision in community living. Regularities included timed phases for achieving discretionary permission for greater liberty from services. Discontinuities indicate mismatches between hospital and community time and patient and professional time. Benchmarking by patients is an important resource and allows comparisons and measurements of stages in the discharge process. The discharged patients showed awareness of deviance and implicated time as an important resource in claiming ordinary identities. The participants produced progressive stories to show their incremental movement towards recovery and, ultimately, establish their non-deviant identities. The workers use time as just one part of a complex display of professional judgement of continued risk status. Fixed periods of elapsed time are necessary but not sufficient criteria for workers to reduce surveillance. Time remains a useful resource for patients to chart their way towards more routine identities.