Police wellbeing: occupational health starts to get its act together
Activity related to police wellbeing in the United Kingdom has gone from strength to strength. The last decade has seen wellbeing rising up the agenda to a point where many police forces list it as one of their top priorities. It is seen as important for moral, resilience and performance. It is also recognised as a recruiting sergeant for new recruits coming from generation Y and Z, These new generations are said to be redefining the workplace and they are prioritizing workplace wellness and work-life balance. The UK Home Office launched the Common Goal for Police Wellbeing, in July 2018, and the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) was launched in 2019. Much of the success to date has been through raising awareness of the importance of wellbeing, addressing the stigma of mental ill health, providing training at individual, management and organisation levels and challenging the culture of police forces. The NPWS includes an occupational health live service. However, progress in rolling out standards has been slow, not helped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advent of the police covenant, which is contained in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 will turbo-charge progress in addressing the many outstanding clinical issues linked to the wellbeing agenda. One of the priorities of the Police Covenant Oversight Board is the recruitment of a Police Chief Medical Officer who will, amongst other things, chair a newly created Clinical Governance Group. The Group will take forward issues such as police recruit medical standards, improving the police officer ill health retirement process, engagement between police occupational health and the healthcare sector and suicide post-vention. For the first time in many years, there will be a link between occupational health and the Home Office, as well as with the National Police Chiefs Council, the governing body for police forces.
Whilst it is still early days, and it remains to be seen how the police covenant will evolve with respect to deliverables, there is real reason for optimism that there is now high level ownership of police occupational health development and a framework for driving systems change.