STRESS FACTOR; 80,000 Hours of Police Time Lost, Figures Show

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Byline: EMILY WOODROW

MORE than 80,000 hours of police time were lost in Wales in the last year - because so many officers are suffering from stress problems, WoS can reveal.

Across Wales, police officers and PCSOs missed 10,550 days worth of work because of stress or psychological disorders.

The total is up from 10,140 in the previous year - an increase of more than 400 days.

South Wales Police had the highest number of days lost, with almost a third of the total at 3,221, followed by forces in North Wales, Gwent and Dyfed Powys.

Jeff Mapps, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents bobbies in England and Wales, believes the nature of modern policing puts officers under severe psychological pressure.

He said: "They are exposed to particularly traumatic incidents and deal with particularly difficult cases, which sometimes causes stress-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. After all, they're only human.

"Forces try and support officers through difficult times and try to reduce the amount of absence that's taken, but this is not always possible."

Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott was shocked by the levels of stress uncovered by WoS.

She said: "It's very worrying, not only in terms of the amount of public money used but also the impact on officers. Something obviously isn't working right if they're taking that much time off.

"If I were in charge of a police force, tackling this would be a key priority for me.

"Clearly the issue is particularly problematic in North Wales, as the amount has risen by nearly 2,000 days in a year, but having more than 10,500 stress-related days off across Wales should indicate something needs looking at.

"With the announcement this week that all forces have to make significant cuts in budget, I foresee this problem getting even worse in the future. As more budget pressure is put on forces, the pressure on individual officers is bound to increase."

While the number of days lost to stress decreased from the previous year in three of the four forces, the amount in North Wales Police increased by almost 2,000 days - from just 729 in 07/08 to 2,708 in 08/09.

A spokesman for North Wales Police said: "It's important to note the figures show the number of days lost, rather than the number of people off work. North Wales Police proactively work to help staff manage the increasing pressures of modern life, but it is also important to note that if stress is reported as the reason for being off ill, it should not automatically be assumed that this is purely work related. …