Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom has called for the safeguarding of officers' mental health to be at the heart of a Police Covenant.

Liz says there should be a strong focus on mental health as well as physical health, with better support for officers.

Her comments come in Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday (24 May) as the national Federation makes its submission to the Government consultation on a Police Covenant.

Liz said: "Our members put themselves in harm’s way every day in the line of duty, not least during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. And what they witness and what they experience can have a lasting psychological impact on them.

"It’s only right that we should look after their mental as well as their physical health, and give them the help, support and protection they deserve."

The latest studies from the Federation revealed 30 per cent of officers had sought help for mental health and wellbeing difficulties associated with, or due to, a potentially traumatic incident that they experienced in the line of duty. 

One in five officers suffer from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and poor mental health and wellbeing is also twice as likely to force officers to take significant time off work than physical injuries.

It's estimated mental health is costing the service between £189.8 million and £229.9 million annually.

Having consulted with Police Federation wellbeing leads from across the 43 forces in England and Wales, the Federation's response also calls on the Government to consider including the following in the Police Covenant:

  • Families. The Federation wants them to have access to appropriate financial protection, support, and advice as and when needed; especially when there has been serious injury or loss of life
  • Health and wellbeing. The Federation believes this needs to be considered holistically, focussing on multiple aspects from finance and relationships, to education and sleep and much more
  • Fast-tracked healthcare to ensure officers are fit for duty at the earliest opportunity
  • A national procurement process for uniform and equipment, with input by expert external agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive. The Federation says it cannot, and must not, be a postcode lottery for officer safety when it comes to access to the best equipment and uniform for all
  • Safe-crewing practices
  • Recognition. The Federation believes there is a lack of formal and state recognition, particularly in relation to police officer bravery. The Federation wants the Police Bravery Awards to be linked to the honours process and calls for a ‘Police Medal for Exemplary Service’ to be created.

National Federation chair John Apter called on the Government to do more to protect police officers both psychically and mentally.

"The challenges, dangers and threats officers face are often unpredictable, but their unique and selfless support means they adapt and deal with the unknown. The last few difficult weeks prove just this," he said.

"Our colleagues on the front-line have been putting themselves and their families in harm’s way to help save lives and ease the burden on the NHS; a testament to their dedication. It’s only right that officers, police staff, retired colleagues and their families are given the support and recognition they deserve in return.

"But this must be more than just a poster on the wall; the covenant must be meaningful and enshrined in law so the Government and chiefs can be held accountable for delivering change.

"We will continue to seek the views of members to ensure this makes a positive tangible difference to the welfare and wellbeing support available for everyone in the police service and their loved ones who they couldn’t do their incredible jobs without."

Plans for the Police Covenant were included in the Police Powers and Protections Bill which was included in the Queen's Speech in December last year.

Read the full Federation submission to the consultation.