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Mental health sick leave hits four-year high as Yorkshire’s emergency services feel strain

Nearly 1,500 emergency services workers across Yorkshire needed time off in 2017/18 due to stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD.
Nearly 1,500 emergency services workers across Yorkshire needed time off in 2017/18 due to stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD.

The traumatic jobs of Yorkshire’s emergency workers are taking an increasing toll on their mental health, it has been revealed today.

Nearly 1,500 emergency service workers across Yorkshire had to take time off work for stress, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2017/18, a four-year high.

Read more: Traumatised North Yorkshire Police officers ‘facing long waits’ for NHS therapy

More than 58,000 working days were lost as a result at Yorkshire’s fire, police and ambulance services, an increase of 33 per cent since 2014/15.

MP Chris Bryant, who played a key role in the successful Protect the Protectors campaign earlier this year, called the findings “really disturbing”.

At North Yorkshire Police, more than one in 10 officers or staff are now having to take time off work because of stress, anxiety, depression, or PTSD, figures secured through Freedom of Information requests show.

The figures follow an special report by The Yorkshire Post which revealed the rising mental health sickness rates at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Mr Bryant said: “These are really disturbing findings, but I’m afraid I’m not surprised by them as the constant message I have had back from emergency workers is that they are overworked, under-resourced and under frequent threat of physical attack.”

He teamed up with Halifax MP and Labour colleague Holly Lynch to put forward new legislation dubbed the Protect the Protectors Bill, which will introduce harsher punishments for those who attack emergency workers.

The resulting Assaults on Emergency Workers private member’s bill received the backing of Parliament earlier this year and is likely to come into effect within months.

Mr Bryant said: “I hope it will help provide real protection to emergency workers, but the Government will need to make sure it is properly enforced and the emergency services have the resources they need to keep their staff safe and secure.”

Read more: How a ‘mini breakdown’ inspired this Leeds officer to become Blue Light Champion at West Yorkshire Police

Policing and Fire Minister Nick Hurd said: “Our police officers and firefighters do vital work to keep our communities safe, and we take their wellbeing and protection very seriously.”

He said the Government had announced a new police wellbeing goal in July to improve the welfare of officers and staff, and launched the Front Line Review to give officers the opportunity to make their views heard.

“We also worked with firefighters and staff to put in place a People Strategy, which includes information on health and safety, wellbeing and support services,” he said, before highlighting the Government’s support “We are also supporting for Assaults on Emergency Workers Bill and the powers it will grant the courts.