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Wellbeing in UK police forces

Posted by Ann Caluori | Wed, 30/10/2019 - 16:47


Guest blog by John Harrison, Senior Medical Advisor, National Police Wellbeing Service

The launch of a new National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) in April 2019[1] marked a significant milestone in the development of the understanding of the approach to police welfare. Historically, support has focussed on the individual who is at risk or who has been harmed. Organisational culture and management has attracted little attention. This is despite compelling evidence that organisational leadership and management are factors in employee engagement and that engagement correlates strongly with wellbeing at work and strong organisational performance[2].  


The eight live services that will be delivered under the Oscar Kilo brand[3] include leadership and management, psychological screening, support during and after major incidents, development of peer support networks, resilience training, and wellbeing at work. In addition, outreach vans are a free resource to Forces to take wellbeing messages and interventions out to the frontline. In parallel with this, there is an opportunity to develop occupational health services to support the NPWS and the Policing Vision 2025[4]. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales and there is no integration or coordination of occupational health development or activity. The NPWS will facilitate the development of foundation standards for occupational health services and will develop guidance to support the screening of high-risk roles via a bespoke psychological screening questionnaire and structured interviews[5].


It is now generally accepted within policing that the promotion and maintenance of wellbeing at work requires an holistic approach. The framework used by NPWS to shape the roadmap to delivery of services comprises promotion, prevention, detection / support and treatment and recovery themes[6]. At the heart of what will be a programme of considerable transformational change will be changing the culture of policing. The recently published Front Line Review,[7] commissioned by the UK government Home Office, was a comprehensive review of factors affecting wellbeing at work, including challenge and hindrance stressors and organisational climate and culture[8]. A culture of stigma around mental health was identified which, although it is improving, will require a change in organisational mind set as well as investment in training and the implementation of values-based promotion criteria. There is scope for development of the competency and values framework from the College of Policing to underpin this[9]. The senior leadership and management development resources from NPWS will address the “many and varied experiences and opinions” expressed about senior leaders and line managers/supervisors and their influence on wellbeing. There will be an expectation that Chief Officers balance operational demands with supporting individuals, addressing external and internal demands. Development of a national evaluation mechanism for wellbeing provision will enable Chief Officers and Police and Crime Commissioners to monitor their performance and assist HMIC-FRS[10] with assessment of wellbeing provision.


There will be multiple layers of organisational support, complementing individual resilience. Peer support, including TRiM[11], Employment Assistance Programmes and occupational health will support individuals with increasingly complex needs. A police-informed healthcare sector, working alongside an aligned voluntary sector, may be stimulated by a mooted police covenant.



[5] College of Policing. Psychological risk management. Introduction and guidance. May 17. (Accessed 11/10/19)

[8] Home Office Front Line Review: Workshops with police officers and police staff. Peter Betts and Clare Farmer. ONS. July 2019.

[10] Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services. (Accessed 11/10/19)

[11] TRiM. Trauma risk management. (Accessed 11/10/19)