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Reductions in staff numbers are having 'significant impacts upon the public' as fewer officers share larger a work load
Eight of out 10 police officers suffer with symptoms of depression and anxiety due to being overworked, the chairman of the Police Federation has warned.
Calum Macleod said a lack of resources in police welfare departments have slashed the support available to stressed officers, while Freedom of Information requests have revealed front line staff in some forces were due as much as a week of rest days last year.
Almost 250,000 rest days were owed across just over 30 forces, according to snapshot figures. The police were asked for statistics on how many days off were due to staff as of September 2017, when Britain’s terror alert was “critical”.
Mr Macleod says reductions in staff numbers are having “significant impacts upon the public” as fewer officers are sharing a larger work load. Nationally, the number of officers on the beat has dropped by 21,500 in nine years.
He told the Press Association: “The conversation around mental health in policing has become greater in recent years. There is a recognition that police officers are human, that they can be broken and that their mental health is an issue.
“What we’re seeing is eight out of 10 officers, in a recent survey, have come back and said they are feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression.
“That is a very startling figure when you look at the amount of police officers in the UK. They need to recuperate to provide the best possible service to the public.
“If officers aren’t feeling refreshed and having rest between their shift patterns, what you find is that the situation of their mental health is exasperated.”
Durham Constabulary’s frontline staff have had 10,590 rest days cancelled, as of September 2017. Northumbria Police’s 3,335 officers were owed 9,796 rest days as of October 10, 2017.
Mr Macleod says measures are being implemented to help officers whose mental health is suffering, but they do not “take away from the fact that the root cause of this is that they are doing too much, with not enough support, with not enough rest”.
He added: “What you found at the beginning of the austerity measures is that police forces’ welfare departments were cut back. So the ability for forces to provide support for officers going through any medical incident was diminished.
“So the voice was having to be filled - through the NHS. The NHS waiting lists are quite big and you just end up in a vicious cycle.”
A Police Federation report on officers’ pay and morale last year indicated that over the previous year, a larger proportion of officers said their morale had been “negatively affected by their work-life balance, their health and wellbeing, their workload and responsibilities”.
Out of more than 30,500 respondents, roughly 85% said that the way police are treated has hit morale, while only 4% said it affected them positively. More than two in three said they did not feel valued.