Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom says the appointment of a permanent chief medical officer for policing is a big step forward in the support of officers’ physical and mental health.
John Harrison has been appointed to the role for the Police Covenant, bringing with him nine years experience of working as the chief medical officer for Devon and Cornwall Police.
Liz said: “This is the first time we’ve had a permanent chief medical officer in policing and it’s not before time.
“John has a wealth of experience working in policing and he’s passionate about making a difference to the health and wellbeing of officers.
“The support that’s available for officers varies from force to force, so it’s a big step forward to have someone who will ensure that members get the best service regardless of where they serve.
“It’s tangible and welcome progress for the Police Covenant,” Liz added.
John admitted one of his main challenges was ensuring consistent policies across 43 forces when each has its own priority.
The new chief medical officer for the Police Covenant said: “When it comes to national consistency, that’s the problem.
“One of the key challenges I see is that all 43 different police forces come with their own set of priorities.
“One of my goals is to focus on pulling together a network of people to support and operationalise a national agenda, so all forces can roll out the same policies and ways of working.”
John’s appointment comes shortly after the Police Covenant revealed their latest priorities include further NHS engagement.
The majority of his career has been spent working with the NHS, specifically as an occupational physician, using his core medical training to better understand ongoing issues in employment.
He said: “A priority will be to look at a standardised national approach to occupational health across all forces.
“It is a postcode lottery. The variation between what different forces offer is massive and there’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done in this area.
“I want to change the narrative around occupational policing, not only for our officers but so that we can recruit better too. I think the police is a very exciting place to work and I want to help other healthcare professionals see that.”
John said his priorities also included clinical governance, to make sure everything that was being done within the police surrounding the health of officers, was done safely.
He said: “It’s so important that police forces are looking after their people properly. I’m here to not only help the organisation but to help officers too.
“I recognise it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint but I’m confident we will get there.”
The PFEW wellbeing lead Belinda Goodwin said having a ‘non-bias’ and ‘impartial’ chief medical officer who has a good understanding of both the health service and the police, was ‘amazing’.
She said: “John will be a great asset to us all.
“He’s very supportive of the police but also knows what he’s talking about from a healthcare perspective.
“John’s main priority will be to look at occupational health standards across the country, which is going to be huge for officers across all forces, nationwide.
“I see him bridging the gap between the health service and the police force, building those essential partnerships to ensure the physical and mental health of our officers is a priority for all forces.”