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PCC launches free health help and screening service for officers and staff which will produce first ever report in the country to assess the wellbeing of an entire police force
Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has launched a free health screening service and drop-in surgery for officers and staff to further boost the police frontline in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire - and the information gathered will create the first report ever created in the country to assess the wellbeing of an entire police force.  

The health improvement services, which were launched (11 July) at the University’s Bedford campus, demonstrate the PCC’s continued commitment to fulfil the pledge she made in her Police and Crime Plan to protect the protectors and are supported by the police union, the Police Federation. In recognition of the demands of the job and the physical and mental impact that police work can have on the health, fitness and wellbeing of officers and staff, a health screening service is also being offered to officers and staff, along with a monthly drop in surgery and access to the University’s specialist equipment and facilities. 

“This free health help and screening service is pioneering in its concept. Looking after your people should be at the forefront of what every organisation does, but more so with the police service as we ask so much of our police officers and staff. Policing is inherently a dangerous occupation and it is absolutely vital we try and repair physically and mentally unwell officers as quickly as possible. Kathryn Holloway and all the partners involved in this initiative deserve credit for what has been achieved so far and what will be achieved in the future,” said Jim Mallen, Chairman of the Bedfordshire Police Federation.

The health screening appointments will, first and foremost, allow each individual officer and staff member to understand what they can do to improve their health in a personalised way. The wholly confidential information gathered will also provide the PCC and Bedfordshire Police's Chief Officer team with evidence which will inform a detailed understanding of the health and strength of the Force, allowing support to be targeted on teams of officers working in particularly demanding roles. Ongoing help is being provided via monthly drop-in appointments with the University of Bedfordshire School of Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation students to improve fitness, address injuries as they occur and reduce sickness. 

“I’m absolutely delighted that this effective partnership is now in place in which everyone is a winner: our police officers and staff get access to health assistance to help with their physical and mental wellbeing, the public can be assured that everything possible is being done to support them into full health and full frontline service, the Force will end up with the first report on the health and fitness of a UK police force to plan to reduce health risks and the university’s students will get meaningful work experience and testimonials to help them towards future employment as they assist their tutors in delivery of this programme of work,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“The University of Bedfordshire is known worldwide for the quality of its Sports Science facilities and Human Performance Unit. Our officers and staff will get the chance to attend monthly drop ins at first Kempston HQ and then Luton Police Station to access help with everything from physiotherapy and specialist assistance with physical movement, then able to access cutting edge equipment and diagnostic tools which provide everything from gait analysis, strength recovery and conditioning to asthma monitoring and a diabetes clinic. These services now complement and enhance the existing range of mental and physical health support services available via the occupational health unit which is delivered with our neighbouring forces in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire,” said the Commissioner. 

One of the first officers to go through the health screening was Community Policing Inspector Paul Ayling. “I have really enjoyed today. It's been a good opportunity to find out about my own physical health and wellbeing. It's really interesting to find the areas where I can improve my own physical health and, more importantly, I think it's a really important step forward for the Force. It's going to allow individuals to take ownership of their own wellbeing and also for the Force to be able to look at us and be able to put measures in place to support us both physically and mentally,” he said. 

“We are hugely proud and excited to be working with Bedfordshire Police to gain a greater understanding of the health and wellbeing of its workforce. I am hoping the Force will benefit greatly by understanding where the greatest needs are and then provide strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of Bedfordshire Police and, hopefully, that will in turn reduce sickness absence. It's a fantastic opportunity for the university to build data around our emergency responders which will hopefully be something we can build on,” said Dr Joanna Richards, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology for the University of Bedfordshire.

The service is imminently to deliver a force-wide study to assess the psychological wellbeing of officers and staff working for Bedfordshire Police. Lead by Chartered Psychologist Dr Angel Chater, students from the University will, initially, carry out a force-wide, anonymous, survey to understand their mental health, stress levels and associated behaviours and then provide advice on how to make positive changes that will build resilience for coping with stress and trauma, support wellbeing, and direct officers in need to the correct professional support services.  

“The work of police officers and staff, both in the field and behind the desk, can have many challenges, but it is not currently common practice to monitor psychological health. It is well known that poor psychological wellbeing can lead to a number of health concerns, both physically and emotionally.  We are delighted to be working with Bedfordshire Police, via the OPCC, on a piece of co-created research to understand the levels of stress, emotion and a personal sense of control among all staff.  Our force-wide psychological survey will run alongside physiological testing to investigate links between these psychological factors, behaviours that may be detrimental to health (such as alcohol use or sitting for long periods of time), wellbeing and physical health. This insight will help us to develop future targeted interventions to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and enhance mental health” said Dr Angel Chater, Health Psychologist and Reader in Health Psychology and Behaviour Change.

Attending the launch was the politically independent Chair of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel, Paul Cain, who felt the partnership with the University should pave the way for other emergency services to look at setting up similar services. “What I have seen today is outstanding. It is using local partners to help the Force in an area where it is definitely needed. If this gets only a few officers back to full duties quicker than with no help, or helps to prevent a health issue or injury, then it is worth gold,” said Mr Cain. 

Anna Akerman, OPCC Director of Policy, who was responsible for bringing the Commissioner’s idea of working with the University and using its state of the art facilities into being said: “I've been overwhelmed with the popularity of the drop-in surgery and that the new service has already reached and helped over 40 police officers and staff in a variety of different ways. 

“We know that police officers are so often injured on duty and need expert advice and ongoing therapies to get them back to full fitness for operational duties. It's a privilege to work with experts at the cutting edge of science in sports therapy and to provide these services and facilities, alongside health screening and wellbeing support for Bedfordshire Police. The research and free full body screening service will mean that support can be extended to help keep our whole workforce fit and healthy. We will then zone-in on problem areas targeting both mental and physical health services for those teams who really need the most support – in an evidence-based way” said Anna Akerman. 

At least 150 officers and staff from across all departments of the Force will receive free health screens worth at least £200 each, if accessed through a private provider, and the information they share which is a basis for the whole force health assessment is to be monitored closely by the College of Policing’s ‘What Works’ team. 

“This started as an idea before I was elected which was included in my Police and Crime Plan and has grown from a desire to find an affordable and achievable way to access top class health advice and facilities for the officers and staff of Bedfordshire Police into a British first with potential to help all of Policing” said Commissioner Holloway.