Psychological disorders account for almost one third of police sickness
One day in every working month was lost to police officer sickness last year – as psychological disorders accounted for a third of absence within Suffolk’s force.
Mental health was the reason for 31% of officer and staff absence from April to December, compared to 20.87% in 2015/16.
Total hours lost to officer sickness went from 4%in 2015/16 to 5.1% in 2017/2018 – higher than the national 4.6% average.
As of March last year, 6.9% of officers were on recuperative duties, or duties falling short of full deployment, compared to 5.3% in neighbouring Norfolk.
Meanwhile, 2.7% were on adjusted duties – where workplace adjustments have been made to overcome barriers to working – compared to 1.5% in Norfolk.
However, a report to the police and crime commissioner’s accountability and performance panel said the force had a lower rate of officers on adjusted duties than the national average (3.5%) and a smaller number on long-term sick leave (1.1% compared to 1.9%).
Chief Constable Gareth Wilson said: “We have to ensure staff return at the earliest opportunity.
“People may feel recuperative and adjusted duties mean inactivity or inability, but our emphasis is on making sure the short term doesn’t become the long term, which could end in ill-health retirement, having an effect on the welfare of the individual and on our budget.
“Of those 60 currently assisted under the system, 41 are fit for full duties except driving. These aren’t people sitting there doing nothing.
“We work through what they can do; not what they can’t, and there’s a rigorous review system to make sure they return to full duties when fit.
“Those in a recuperative environment are productive and valued members of staff.
“Our workforce deals with extraordinary incidents and a higher than average workload, but we are active when it comes to mental health procedure.
“Perceived stigma once caused people to hide illness and let it fester until they went off for long periods – often not returning.”
Norfolk and Suffolk police are working in partnership with Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing to provide round-the-clock support for staff and officers with post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and complex mental ill health.
Suffolk has also made use of the Trauma Risk Management system, which originated in the armed forces.