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Building police OH


There is an urgent need for a strategic approach to workforce planning for police occupational health (OH). There is evidence of numerous OH vacancies compounded by difficulty in recruitment. There is a real risk that police OH services will fail through lack of suitably trained and experienced clinicians. This crisis comes at a time when OH services are needed more than ever, to meet the physical and mental health needs of the police family.

An OH workforce is required to assess and manage officers and staff who are not coping or in crisis. Health surveillance and screening is carried out to detect those who are struggling to cope, or who have signs of a developing illness. Competencies are needed to promote good health and prevent the development of illness and disease, in collaboration with the wider wellbeing team. Health and wellbeing practitioners are included under the umbrella of OH in some forces, whereas the wellbeing team is managed separately in many forces. Whatever the arrangements, it is important that there is good clinical governance of health and wellbeing interventions and that OH plays a central role in this.

Target Operating Model

To assist police forces the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) has developed a target operating model (TOM) of OH delivery and resourcing. Since the launch of the Enhanced OH Standards, in March 2023, the direction of travel is to achieve service levels commensurate with these standards. Proposed staffing levels are described in the TOM.

Core to the configuration of the staffing of the model is the pyramid model. (Courtesy of Dr Ali Hashtroudi, Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Trust).

Transactional services would be delivered mainly by staff with either baseline OH knowledge and understanding or core foundation knowledge. Their practice would be overseen by staff further up the pyramid, with a process for escalation, as necessary.

Value-added services would be led and largely delivered by staff with police-specific knowledge and relevant expert knowledge.

Growing OH - People

Growing OH people is central to the police OH strategy, albeit it cannot be viewed in isolation. An immediate issue to be addressed is to optimise recruitment via agencies. There is a need to raise awareness of police OH amongst the national OH community and to promulgate a positive narrative for police OH. Effective marketing of police OH should focus on job specifications likely to attract good candidates.

Key features of police OH roles are:

The NHS Growing OH and Wellbeing Together strategy also addresses the need for the family of OH and wellbeing professionals to be seen as a valued and attractive vocation. There is a focus on career development and a talent management approach to ensure that there are sustainable talent pipelines. Adoption of the pyramid model allows the opportunity for people to advance their skill sets and ascend the pyramid. There must be opportunities for training to achieve this. In addition, the development of centres of excellence will provide the opportunity to establish accredited training posts to develop police OH doctors and nurses of the future. In addition to gaining expertise in clinical practice, developing leaders of the future is essential.

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