Stress Toll At Police Scotland Revealed

19 July 2015, 06:09 | Updated: 19 July 2015, 06:13

More than 53,000 working days at Police Scotland have been lost to stress in the past two years, according to figures from Scottish Labour.

A Freedom of Information request by the party found that in the most recent period - between January and March this year - more than 10,000 absence days were recorded due to conditions including stress, anxiety and depression.

The figures were released as the fallout continues over the failings that led to Lamara Bell and John Yuill remaining in a crashed car for three days after it was initially reported to police.

Ms Bell, 25, and her 28-year-old boyfriend were involved in a crash off the M9 near Stirling on Sunday July 5.

The incident was reported that day via a 101 call to police from a member of the public, but the message was not logged in the system and no action was taken at the time.

The pair were only discovered in the car three days later, on Wednesday July 8, after police received a further call to the scene.

Mr Yuill was found dead inside the blue Renault Clio. Ms Bell, who was discovered alive but critically ill, died in hospital a week on from the crash.

Two investigations are under way to review police call handling and Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has faced calls to resign.

The figures obtained by Scottish Labour show that 53,428 days have been lost to stress-related conditions since March 2013 and the same month this year.

Police Scotland said absence and its causes are ''closely monitored and managed to ensure attendance at work is maintained and the level of service to communities is not adversely affected''.

Scottish Labour's legal affairs spokeswoman Elaine Murray said the Government should investigate the figures.

''The fact that under the SNP Government more than 53,000 working days have been lost to stress in the last two years is shocking,'' Ms Murray said.

''Although modest progress has been made, the spike at the start of this year is concerning. The SNP Government should investigate why there was such a big increase compared to the same time last year.

''Our police officers and civilian staff need more support to cope with the difficult situations they find themselves in, so that fewer working days are lost to stress and they can get on with the job of keeping people safe.''

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: ``During the first two years of Police Scotland, the total number of days lost through stress-related absence has fallen year on year by more than 17,000. Police Scotland, which has almost 23,000 people who work for the service and in common with any other large organisation, recognises that stress can be a factor in absence rates amongst personnel.

''We work hard to ensure that having come through the most significant public sector reform of recent generations, absence and the causes of it are closely monitored and managed to ensure attendance at work is maintained and the level of service to communities is not adversely affected.

''All of our staff and officers have access to a wide range of support, guidance and welfare services. We have recently carried out a major staff survey and will continue to work with our personnel at all levels to address issues which arise from it following careful analysis of the results.''

Ms Murray also repeated calls for Sir Stephen House to resign and for the inquiries into the M9 crash to be published as soon as possible.

She said: ''The SNP Government must also accept its responsibilities. Since the creation of the single police force there have been cuts to services, thousands of civilian jobs lost and a lack of transparency over stop and search policy.

''It's time for the SNP Government to get a grip on policing in Scotland.''

A Scottish Police Authority spokesman said: ``The creation of Police Scotland and the SPA is the largest public sector reorganisation since devolution. A programme of organisational change of that scale is not completed overnight and we understand that has meant officers and staff working though periods of transition and with some uncertainty.

''The SPA takes its responsibilities as an employer very seriously, which is why there has been a strong and consistent scrutiny at board and management level on improving data and considering trends relating to our people and their health, safety and wellbeing.

''Earlier this year an external provider was appointed to offer a consistent range of confidential advice and support which is accessible to all staff and officers across Scotland and replaced the piecemeal provision which had been available in some of the legacy force areas.

''Our dedicated HR committee has also taken a lead role in championing the development of the first comprehensive staff survey, and in considering organisational change proposals both before and after they have been subject of consultation with staff. SPA meets regularly with all the staff associations and unions about issues affecting their members, and the continuing wellbeing of our workforce is rarely ever off the agendas of those meetings.

''We will continue to work closely with Police Scotland to develop work around improving wellbeing, and in particular ensuring that the views of the workforce expressed in the staff survey shape future plans to make policing an employer and workplace of choice.''