Rising number of police officers and staff in Hampshire are taking time off sick for stress (From Andover Advertiser)
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Rising number of police officers and staff in Hampshire are taking time off sick for stress
9:00am Thursday 26th September 2013 in Basingstoke
RISING numbers of police officers and staff in Hamp-shire are going off sick with stress-related illnesses.
More and more people through all ranks are cracking under the pressure as workloads mount while numbers are slashed in a bid to save money, with many being signed off long term.
Constabulary bosses admit that they are “concerned” as they face ending the year with the highest rates of sickness since 2010, and say that a number of measures have been, and continue to be, put in place to help the 5,600-strong workforce.
Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Hayes is also so alarmed that he has levelled questions at the Chief Constable, while the police federation, representing rank and file officers, has demanded that the issue is tackled.
The figures come just weeks after it was revealed that Hampshire Constabulary — which has already shaved £55million from its budget — is facing further cuts of £25m.
Over a period of seven years, it will have made savings of £80m by shedding hundreds of jobs, selling off buildings and closing stations.
The figures show how in under eight months, a total of more than 210 officers and staff have been off sick with stress, and if numbers continue at the same rate it will hit more than 360 by the end of the year.
It is a tough time for Chief Constable Andy Marsh, whose job it is to implement the savings, and he has already admitted that more jobs will have to go.
Sources tell of an occupational health department that is seriously overstret-ched and under-resourced, police officers and staff struggling to take leave because there is no resilience to cover duties, people off on long-term sick say that there is a lack of support, and some workers have cited that their health and wellbeing is suffering as more is put upon them.
Hampshire Police bosses, however, insist that they are doing what they can, having held stress workshops for those who faced redundancy under the “force change” programme, risk-assessing particularly stressful roles like tackling child abuse and dealing with road accidents, and psychologically screening officers before they are posted to a role.
Nicky Cornelius, force director of HR and corporate services, said: “It’s difficult to say if it’s work-related stress or other factors, but certainly we have seen an increase in stress-related illness over the past year.
“It’s not always about work. It can be complex and involve personal and relationship issues.”
She told how occupational health workers talking to those affected have reported back that key issues surround workload, relationship issues and conflict with line managers, and that stress was being felt at “all levels” of the force.
Ms Cornelius added: “Absolutely, we are concerned about the impact on individuals and staff and we are working closely with support from HR and occupational health to engage with people from a very early stage.”
But following the arrival of a PCC, the force is also finding itself under scrutiny from Mr Hayes, whose concerns about sickness levels were part of his election pledge.
He said: “I have asked the Chief Constable questions on this and he tells me work is being carried out to reduce stress levels.
“I think that what broadly is the cause is that we are asking police officers to do more than they used to do, both in terms of intensity and breadth of work. More is being put on, and expected of, people.”
He added: “We have been successful in reducing crime, reducing costs and dealing with a high level of intense crime requiring intensive policing, but all that comes at a cost.”
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