Offenders with mental health problems often have complex and interrelated needs which separately challenge the criminal justice system (CJS) and National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (U.K.). Consequently, interagency collaboration and timely information sharing are essential. This study focused on the sharing of information about people with mental health problems in contact with the CJS. Questionnaires were distributed to a range of health and criminal justice personnel. The results showed that there was a mismatch between what service user information criminal justice agencies felt they needed and what was routinely received. Prison Service staff received more information (between 15% and 37%) from health agencies than the police (between 6% and 22%). Health professionals received most of the information they needed from criminal justice agencies (between 55% and 85%). Sharing service user information was impeded by incompatible computer systems and restrictions due to data protection/confidentiality requirements. In the U.K., recent governmental publications have highlighted the importance of information sharing; however there remains a clear mismatch between what health related information about service users criminal justice agencies need, and what is actually received. Better guidance is required to encourage and empower people to share.
© 2012 International Association of Forensic Nurses.