MORE than 53,000 working days at Police Scotland have been lost to stress-related conditions in the past two years, according to official figures obtained by Scottish Labour.
A Freedom of Information request found that more than 10,000 absence days were recorded between January and March this year as a result of various conditions including stress, anxiety and depression.
The figures came to light at a time when police performance is under scrutiny as the fallout continues over the failings that led to Lamara Bell and John Yuill being left in a crashed car for three days after their accident was initially reported to police.
Bell, 25, and her 28-year-old boyfriend were involved in a crash off the M9 near Stirling on 5 July. A member of the public reported it to the police via a 101 call, but the message was not logged in the system and no action was taken.
The pair were only discovered on 8 July, after police received a further call to the scene. Yuill was dead and Bell, who was discovered alive but critically ill, died in hospital a week after 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 working days figures show that 53,428 days have been lost to stress-related conditions between March 2013 and March 2014.
They also show that between January and March this year, the most recent period for which figures are available, 10,016 working days were lost due to stress-related conditions, an increase of 84 per cent compared with the 5,439 recorded in the same period last year.
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,” 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.”