At the recent CEP and EuroPris workshop on “Mental Health in Prison and Probation” Dr. Coral Sirdifield (Research Fellow) and Dr. Rebecca Marples (Research Assistant) from the University of Lincoln (UK), presented a workshop on creating effective mental health provision for offenders in the community. This is a short summary of their presentation and the discussions that were held.

We started our workshop with giving the delegates an overview of some of the key issues in relation to creating effective mental healthcare for offenders in the community, looking at what we know about the health needs of this population and the barriers that they encounter in terms of access to healthcare.

Health care for offenders in the community

The participants of the workshop were challenged to work in small groups to discuss important questions on the topic of mental health care for offenders in the community. They started with discussing the question: “How we can ensure good continuity of mental health care when offenders leave prison?”

The main goal of these discussions was to make participants learn from one another, talking about things like barriers and facilitators for continuity of care within their criminal justice and healthcare systems, models of good practice, and ways in which good communication and referral procedures can be established between agencies.

After feedback from the groups on their discussions, we shared some of our own ideas in response to this question. Suggestions included:

  • Make sure that service commissioners consider offenders’ mental health needs (as these are likely to be different from those of the wider community);
  • Mental health organisations should proactively advertise services to probation agencies;
  • They should also nominate staff to create and communicate standard inter-agency referral procedures;
  • Try new ways of working that have been shown to be effective in the research literature;
  • Invest in services, evaluate them and share findings;
  • Co-locate staff;
  • Create a toolkit to support healthcare commissioners.

Mapping mental health care provision

We then discussed the roles and responsibilities of different organisations in the UK in relation to offender health, and the idea that organisations are not always delivering what policy makers expect them to. We presented a brief overview of our current research project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Research for Patient Benefit Programme. This project aims to map healthcare provision for offenders in contact with probation services in England and to create a toolkit for commissioners and practitioners to improve healthcare provision for this group ).

A toolkit

Finally, we had two more questions for the participants of the workshop: “How would you define a toolkit?” and “If you were creating a toolkit for people commissioning mental health services for offenders, what would you include?” This generated some really useful discussion and we would like to express our thanks to those that took part

More on principles for improving healthcare provision for offenders on probation can be found in a Position Paper from the Probation Institute.

Your views

We are very much interested to hear your views on the questions that were discussed during the workshop, please contact us on or to share your views or to ask questions.

This summary presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme (Grant Reference Number PB-PG-0815-20012). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

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