Essex Police officers took more than 11,000 sick days due to stress last year
Exclusive: Last year officers at Essex Police took more than 11,000 sick days for stress, anxiety or depression – more than double the figure five years ago.
A total of 11,238 days were lost in the 2013/14 financial year, equivalent to 3.38 days per officer.
This year, up until January 31, 10,007 days have been lost, equal to 3.1 days per officer.
The figures were revealed by the force following a Freedom of Information request by the East Anglian Daily Times.
In 2009/10 the force lost just 5,137 officer days, 1.43 each.
From April 2009 to the end of January this year officer numbers have fallen from 3,537 to 3,177.
Mark Smith, chairman of the Essex Police Federation, said: “I am not shocked, and I think it is worse than that as there will be days lost through upset stomachs, migraines or cardiac problems all caused by but not necessarily recorded as stress.
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“Overall last year there were about 44,500 lost days, so this is more than a quarter.
“I put it down to the cuts, which began in 2010, with the additional workload and stress officers are facing. We also have a number of officers dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“It will get worse depending on where we go with further cuts as officers are expected to do more and more. As the title of our campaign says, cuts have consequences, and officer numbers are expected to fall to 3,000 by the end of next year.
“It is a vicious circle. The more people go off sick the more work there is to be picked up by those who are there.”
Stress-related illnesses among PCSOs had generally been falling over the past five years, with 1,255 lost days (2.74 per person) in 2009/10 to 480 last year (1.45 per person).
However this year, until January 31, has seen 1,141 lost days, equal to 3.83 per PCSO.
Police staff saw 4,118 lost days in 2009/10, compared to 3,528 last year and 2,911 so far this year.
A force spokesman said: “Essex Police has a performance improvement unit which deals with cases of regular absence and looks at whether there are common themes.
“The senior management team and HR department work together to ensure everyone who works for Essex Police is being fully supported.
“By its nature policing is a stressful job. That’s why it is important all officers and staff are given the welfare support they need.”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, added: “The number of sickness days caused by stress, anxiety and depression amongst Essex Police remains a matter of concern.
“I am continuing to encourage the Chief Constable and his managers to identify the root causes of this increase and adopt measures to reduce that stress.
“I expect the force to continue to manage sickness with genuine compassion, professional support and careful supervision. Policing is often stressful, and I recognise that officers, PCSOs and staff day by day, hour by hour, show exceptional commitment to keeping our communities safe whilst rising to the challenge of reduced budgets and a smaller workforce.”