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Outsourced mental health services wreaking havoc with officers' welfare


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‘If you show out you're seen as weak'


Attitudes towards mental health may have “dramatically” shifted over the last three decades within the Met, but in practice, austerity measures mean officers are more likely to burn out than ever before, the federation’s diversity lead told politicians yesterday.

“We are, I hate to say this, paying lip service to our officers”, Metropolitan Police Federation Diversity Secretary Anne Shuttleworth told the London Assembly Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday.

Although representatives from the NHS, mental health charity Mind and an MP made a Lord for his work on social inequality praised the progress of the MPS on its approach to mental health incidents, the Fed is concerned this is not translating to better welfare for its officers.

Ms Shuttleworth, who is nearing the end of her service said one phrase going unmentioned in the force is “burn out”.

“Culturally we have moved on. I think our younger officers have a better understanding of mental health issues.

“Attitudes have shifted massively.

“But I think officers very often make mistakes - small things go wrong because they get to a point where they are overwhelmed with the volume of work that is coming in.

“They just seem to rush from call to call to call to call and they’re expected to give this gold star service every single time.

“And that’s fine for a while.”

She told how working as a Sexual Offences Investigation Trained Officer at the start of her career had left her so drained she could no longer “emphasise and sympathise naturally as a human being”.

But her experience compares favourably with that of probationers in 2018, she said.

At the time the Met allowed her to rotate with other officers so she could refresh herself but this is no longer possible for most officers, she said.

“Now because of the position we’re in because of resources, officer numbers, volume of calls and the complexity of what we deal with, we do not very often take into account that we’re burning officers out.”

She said the BCU model had created issues she is “not at liberty” to discuss which has “put more pressure on people because they’re being expected to move and to take on more work and to take on greater responsibility.”  

The decision to outsource the MPS counselling services is also taking its toll upon officers she said.

The counselling service doesn’t work like it used to, she said “in respect that it [doesn’t] understand that we’re a 24/7 service.

“It tells us when we’re going to go to it and how it’s going to be from its perspective and if we miss any of the appointments we don’t get them back.

“So where an officer might need ten counselling sessions, they’re not likely to get them because shift work will prevent that.

“Since we’ve outsourced a lot of our resources I’m afraid I’ve got concerns because yes we do try to look after our officers’ mental health but there is still a stigma for some of us.

“If you actually show out you’re seen as weak.

“Culturally it’s always going to be under the surface.

“It’s the sort of job where you work with a team of people and you don’t want to let your colleagues down and if you show out and say 'I can’t do this anymore' you feel you’re letting your peers down.

“I can only speak from experience and I’m finding it always ends up being too late by the time an officer would come to me.”

Chairman of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust Andy Trotter spoke of a “transformation” in the police service towards mental health incidents.

“There’s a real willingness to work together, I’m very impressed with at the moment,” he said.  

Head of policy at Mind Vicki Nash said she was well aware the police were trying to “plug the gap where other services are failing to meet demand” and Lord Victor Adebowale CBE said he has “a lot of sympathy with the police because they were faced with extremely stressful situations but weren’t being briefed or getting the support they needed”.

But he added: “I would like a clearer public acknowledgement of the police’s responsibilities with regard to mental health.

“They do have responsibility under Section 2 of the Human Rights Act. I can’t sit here in all honestly and say I’m really pleased, everything’s fine because it isn’t.”

Ms Shuttleworth said clarity is needed on the role of the policing service within mental health.

“We should have not have people who are mentally ill in cells at all.

“We are not employed to diagnose. It is not our role.

“How well do you want us trained? Do you want us to be the equivalent of psychiatric nurses and doctors?

“People have got to decide where that limit finishes.”

She added: “Sometimes it can take a whole shift - waiting with patients. Dealing with people with mental health issues is not a five minute job.

“My colleagues in the main are really good people and they get really frustrated when they get constant calls. It is very draining.”

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18 hours ago, Techie1 said:

If you show out you're seen as weak'

That’s my experience. Speak out about your vulnerabilities and you get treated differently. You can get moved even if it’s not your application to the role causing the issue. My advice is speak to anyone but your line managers.

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Our occupational health services are basically isolated from management. They can't get access to any reports without your permission. 

However, you can't self refer to them, it has to go through line management. Do catch 22. 

The fed are probably a good shout though 

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6 hours ago, SimonT said:

Our occupational health services are basically isolated from management. They can't get access to any reports without your permission. 

However, you can't self refer to them, it has to go through line management. Do catch 22. 

The fed are probably a good shout though 

We can self refer for certain issues such as stress / MH / anxiety.


17 hours ago, Techie1 said:

How about occupational health, is that to be avoided too?

I trust OH, but not my line manager.

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