Police boss worried at sickness levels at Essex Police

Politics / Mon 18th Aug 2014 at 03:40pm

THE POLICE AND CRIME Commissioner, Nick Alston has expressed his concerns at the rising levels of sickness at Essex Police.

Mr Alston said:

“Since becoming Police and Crime Commissioner, I have been scrutinising all aspects of Essex Police performance. Early on, I identified sickness levels as a matter of concern.

“The figures show that in 2009-10, for police officers, an average of 7.68 duty days per year was lost to sickness. By 2012-13, this had risen to 12.10 duty days, and stayed at a level of over 12 days per officer during 2013-14.

“The impact of reported anxiety, depression and stress is also clear in the figures. In 2009-10, when there were more officers than now, 5,132 duty days were lost to anxiety, depression or stress. By 2012-13, this figure had doubled to 10,521. In 2013-14, the number of police officer duty days lost to anxiety, depression or stress was 11,238, or over 3 days per officer. This figure is worryingly high. Clearly, the root causes of this increase must be properly understood and managed, with officer welfare at the heart of everything that is done.

“The most significant increase in duty days lost occurred in the run-up to and during the major Essex Police organisational restructure known as Blueprint, between 2011 and 2013. All organisations need to examine how they operate, to see if alternative models might be more effective and efficient. I do not criticise Essex Police for exploring the implementation of a “functional” policing model, with more centralised control and tasking of officers, PCSOs and staff. It is to the credit of Essex Police that the Blueprint model was kept under constant review by the then Chief Constable. Chief Constable Kavanagh has now made the decision to return the force to a model with more local supervision and control of policing resources at its heart.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner, I welcome the local policing plans being implemented under the Essex Police Evolve programme. I also believe that the return to more local supervision and local control, which is broadly welcomed by officers, PCSOs and police staff, will help reduce the levels of stress experienced. I have confidence that Chief Constable Kavanagh and his Chief Officer team will lead and manage these changes with the greatest possible professionalism.

“There are other factors to consider too. It is always the case that police forces will face critical incidents, calling for an exceptional response. The recent murders in Colchester have understandably, and entirely correctly, placed significant strain on Essex Police. Police officers, PCSOs and police staff have responded with great professionalism, regularly working long shifts, back to back, day after day. They have my respect and thanks, and I’m sure the respect and thanks of everyone in our communities.

“Sadly, also, officers are sometimes injured in the course of duty, protecting our communities and keeping us all safe. Some have carried out extraordinary acts of courage and have found themselves assaulted and hurt in the execution of their duty, and I am assured that these officers receive all the support that the force is able to extend to them. That support must include medical and welfare needs in their recovery.

“It is my judgement that over the past few years, cost-cutting measures went too far in the area of occupational health and access to physiotherapy services. I know that the Chief Constable and his senior team are working to increase the support available to injured officers.

“I expect the force to continue to manage police officer and staff sickness with genuine compassion, professional support and careful supervision. Whilst ensuring that the health and welfare of everyone working for Essex Police is at the heart of this process, I also expect the number of days lost to sickness to reduce as the Chief Constable leads the force forward.

“For detailed information in relation to sickness levels please visit http://www.essex.pcc.police.uk/2014/08/pcc-statement-on-essex-police-sickness-levels/

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