A sharp rise in the number of police officers taking long-term sick leave

05 April 2016

Police Mental Health

An increase in the number of police officers taking long-term sick leave for psychological reasons is not surprising, given the ever-increasing stresses they face.

Using statistics from 40 forces across the country, the BBC has reported the number of cases of officers and police staff on extended leave for mental health reasons has increased by nearly 35 per cent in the last five years. The figures show cases rose from 4,544 in 2010-11 to 6,129 in 2014-15 despite police workforces shrinking.

Che Donald, lead on mental health for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "The increasing pressure on police officers to do more with less is further shrinking the thin blue line."

"There have been unprecedented cuts to police officer numbers since 2010, with the force losing 17,000 officers. However, the demand placed on the police service has not decreased, with overall crime showing a recent increase of 5% and violent crime up 27%. We know that this increase in demand on serving officers is having an impact on an overstretched and overworked police service,” he said.

It was recently publicised that police officers were owed in excess of 400,000 rest days, accumulated by backfilling gaps left in the service. Che Donald said that those rest days provided officers with necessary time off to relax, to spend valuable time with their families and loved ones, and are important for well-being.

"All these factors taken together will have an accumulative effect on the health and wellbeing of police officers, so the increase in sickness levels – including mental health and psychological issues - does not come as a surprise. We are seeing more officers needing to take time off for mental health reasons; they are often working in highly stressful, fast-moving environments along with being exposed to horrific situations which takes its toll," he said.

"This, coupled with a reduction in resources and manpower, can lead to the perfect storm. Historically, the police service has not always been open about mental health issues and people used to cover up the real reasons why they took time off sick.

“Thankfully, now, the issue is being acknowledged more openly which is a positive step in the right direction. This might also be another factor in the increased figures."