Police sickness bill hits £18.5m as Hampshire Constabulary vows to improve officers’ mental health

Police are feeling the strain
Police are feeling the strain

POLICE officers in poor health are being forced off sick as they struggle to maintain the front line – with £18.5m lost due to absence in three years.

Senior bosses predict the cost of officers being absent and the number of ill-health retirements will hit £25m over the next three years.

Police and crime commissioner for Hampshire Michael Lane. Picture: Sarah Standing (050319-2248)

Police and crime commissioner for Hampshire Michael Lane. Picture: Sarah Standing (050319-2248)

All officers will now have a psychological screening on entry – with Hampshire the first force to do this - in a bid to better safeguard their mental health.

In the three years to September absence cost Hampshire Constabulary £18.5m – with sickness retirement costing £2m a year.

A report by deputy chief constable Sara Glen said police are being forced to work longer on the front line due to cuts in numbers.

Ageing officers are being exposed to trauma 'for a longer and more sustained period,' she warns in the report requesting £1.9m funding to protect wellbeing.

Crime commissioner Michael Lane has granted the cash injection – with the hope better in-house care will help officers and save £2.7m by cutting overtime, sickness and retirement on medical grounds.

The move has been welcomed and will see more support for officers across the force - not just those in specialist roles traditionally thought to be exposed more.

A mental health peer supporter scheme will be expanded to tackle ‘slow burn’ trauma, while rehabilitation for physical injuries will be extended.

Ms Glen said: ‘Our officers are regularly exposed to incidents and situations that can affect their physical and mental wellbeing.

‘These measures will provide better treatment for our officers when they need it and, crucially, help us prepare them for the traumatic experiences they may face.

‘As a force, we are committed to looking after our people because they do such a great job in keeping our communities safer.’

Funding will provide more work on suicide prevention, better management of long-term absence and physiotherapy.

Commissioner Mr Lane’s office will fork out £761,000 in 2019/20 follow by £563,000 per year for the two following years.

He said: ‘Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, sometimes at great cost to their own health and wellbeing. We must protect them, as they protect us.’

Hampshire Police Federation chairman Alex Charge, who represents rank-and-file officers, welcomed the cash. He said: ‘Sixty per cent of our staff are routinely exposed to trauma.

‘It can be anything from a serious car crash and the physical trauma there or just the repeated exposure to victims of crime over and over again, it’s going back to those victims who may not be wanting to engage and seeing the trauma - it’s that slow, drip, drip, drip as well as the big one-off incidents.’