Information sharing – easier said than done

The best way I’ve found to describe the challenge of information sharing was when a colleague said: “What we are trying to do is very simple, but really hard to do.”

I started in the role of Engagement Manager at the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing in September 2014 and since then, I’ve been exploring the impact of people’s culture and behaviour on information sharing within the mental health crisis care system.

I have a background in mental health, through my work in voluntary sector alcohol, drug and counselling services and 15 years’ experience with Sheffield City Council. Despite that, I openly admit that the world of ‘information sharing’ was very new to me.

The role of the Centre can sometimes be confusing, but in simple terms we work with local places and central government to improve the way they share information, by identifying cultural barriers and challenging and inspiring them to overcome them – with the end goal of improving public services for end users.

I did some work with the Aldershot Safe Haven, spending time with the staff and service users to find out how the approach to information sharing was working there. I only spent a few hours with them, but even in that short time I came away with a really clear picture of the huge impact that information sharing can have in supporting people who are in – or at risk of – a mental health crisis.

A local and national conversation
I’ve also been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work very closely with the partners and users of Surrey’s mental health crisis care system. I was able to help develop their understanding of how people and behaviour enable information sharing and what the barriers are; as well as the impact of information sharing on services, carers and – most importantly – service users.

As Surrey’s work progressed and partners developed their understanding about the information sharing challenges they faced, they were able to consider the next steps they needed to take to help them achieve their aim of transforming their mental health crisis care system.

As part of these next steps, Surrey’s crisis system asked the Centre to connect them with other local services across England, with which they could share learning and experiences of information sharing – as well as with central government departments to influence and inform their thinking and the future policy that will support better information sharing.

At the Centre, we specialise in using experiential approaches to work with public services partners from the statutory, voluntary and community, and independent sectors as well as with central government departments.

So, we responded to Surrey’s request by developing and delivering a national-level workshop, in partnership with national organisations and government departments such as the Home Office and Department of Health. The wealth of experience and knowledge of information sharing and mental health that came out of our conversations with these partners before the workshop helped to shape its content, so it focused on what people needed.

The workshop took place in May at Surrey County Hall in Kingston, and brought together organisations operating across the mental health crisis care system and leads from central government departments. The format for the day gave a unique platform for the localities that attended to talk about local issues with national representatives.

What was noticeable on the day was the enthusiasm and excitement in the room as people arrived. Someone said to me at the end of the workshop: “It was remarkable that despite some people having had a very early 4am start to make the journey to Kingston, the energy just kept on going right through the day.”

You can read the report by visiting and clicking on the ‘Information sharing and culture in mental health crisis care workshop report’ tab.

This illustrates the high level of commitment I have experienced from everyone involved that are working to improve the mental health crisis care system. As my understanding of the cultural factors that impact on information sharing has grown, time and time again it is this strong and collective commitment of individuals and organisations that is the real clincher in being able to successfully tackle the “very simple but very hard to do” that is information sharing.

This is a map of my information sharing journey so far through the world of mental health and the crisis care system – you can keep up to date with our work at