Cheshire police and crime commissioner David Keane is committing to doubling investment in occupational health support for police officers, staff and volunteers in Cheshire.
A new in-house occupational health service will be developed which will put the support offered for psychological services on an equal footing with support for physical health.
The new model, which will be subject to a phased implementation, will help ensure waiting times are reduced for much-needed psychological support and will also allow Cheshire Constabulary to adapt the support offered to meet the changing demands of frontline policing.
It will also see, for the first time, occupational health support offered flexibly at different locations with employees no longer having to travel to HQ to access services.
The plans, which have been drawn up with support from staff associations including Cheshire Police Federation, Unison and the Superintendents Association, have been given the seal of approval by both PCC David Keane and chief constable Darren Martland.
PCC David Keane said: “The pressure being placed on all of our officers, staff and volunteers is increasing every day and the Covid-19 pandemic has only compounded this issue, placing an unprecedented demand on all of our departments.
“I have been humbled by the commitment our staff have shown to keeping us all safe whilst battling with a crisis which has not only touched our professional lives, but also our personal lives.
“I want to ensure there is the right support in place for not just physical health but also mental health to ensure everybody who works for Cheshire Constabulary is in the best possible shape to keep Cheshire safe.
“I have made this a top priority despite the ongoing financial pressures the Constabulary is facing.”
Work has already commenced on implementing this model and specialist staff, which includes a psychologist working with a team of counsellors, are being recruited.
Chief constable Darren Martland added: “The health and wellbeing of our people is something which is of paramount importance to the Constabulary.
“We want to make sure that when our officers and staff come to work they are the best they can be. This benefits both their own health and wellbeing and also helps them in their role of keeping the communities of Cheshire safe.
“I therefore welcome this extra investment from the police and crime commissioner, which will ensure that psychological support is more accessible across all of our local police stations.”
Chief superintendent Bill Dutton, chair of Cheshire Superintendents Association, added: “This investment and commitment demonstrates we care about our people and comes at a time when pressure on the service has continued to mount. We are fully supportive of appreciative of this decision.”
James Thompson, chair of Cheshire Police Federation, added: “Policing is a very unique position and officers are at high risk of experiencing psychological harm. Officers will often be exposed to more potentially traumatic situations and incidents in a week then some people may ever experience in their lifetime. This is in addition to those physical injuries officers suffer from physical injury as a result of the job they do.
“I am grateful to the PCC and the Chief Constable for supporting the investment in occupational health services within Cheshire as I believe this will improve the health and wellbeing of our officers.”
Joanne Moorcroft, branch secretary from Unison Cheshire Police Branch, added: “UNISON has long been a proponent of bringing the occupational health Unit in-house, and actively campaigned for this to happen. We are therefore delighted with this news, and welcome this move as a genuine advancement in the support that can be offered to improve the wellbeing service for our members.
“We have seen how well this model works in other police forces, and see it as an investment in the employees of Cheshire Constabulary, no matter what their role, level or location within the organisation.”