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Improvements for prison mental health support vital

At least five years more commitment are needed to improve support for people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system, a report has concluded. 

Development of liaison and diversion services in police stations has allowed solid progress in improving care. 

However, the Centre for Mental Health's report claims that services will only be effective if health, care, housing and other services are able to help people who are diverted. 

Five years have passed since the first Bradley Report was published. 

This updated report claims that plans to extend liaison and diversion services nationwide by 2017 are essential to ensure that people with mental health problems or learning disabilities are identified as early as possible and given the support they need. 

The report also calls for “greater consistency” in the provision of mental health support in prisons. 

Lord Bradley said: “I have been impressed by the dedication, creativity and perseverance of the people who are striving to make change both nationally and locally. Many of the most innovative and promising services we have seen are run by or in partnership with people who have been through the criminal justice system themselves.

"If we are to make further progress and fulfil the potential of liaison and diversion, we need to see continued commitment from government for at least the next five years. And we need to ensure that every local authority and every clinical commissioning group in England puts in place the support that is necessary to help people who come into contact with the criminal justice system to improve their health and build better lives."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nurses working in the criminal justice system bring vital skills and knowledge to these complex and challenging cases. Having more nurses in liaison and diversion services and in prisons will improve the health care that people in the criminal justice system receive. 

“Early intervention can reduce health equalities, reduce crime and re-offending and save millions. However this can only be effective if there is joint collaborative working across health, social and housing sectors.