EVERY year more than 220 Hampshire police officers have to take time off work after struggling to cope with stress and mental health issues.

Hampshire Police Federation (HPF) says the latest figure is even higher than normal because the Covid-19 crisis has placed extra strain on officers trying to keep the streets safe.

Police in towns and cities across the county are having to enforce ever-changing coronavirus restrictions on top of their other duties.

A total of 235 Hampshire officers were signed off sick in 2019/20 because of illnesses caused by the pressure they felt they were under.

HPF chairwoman Zoë Wakefield said police cuts imposed over the past ten years were part of the problem.

"Officers are working harder and they’re staying on later because there’s fewer of them to get the work done," she said.

“Then add Covid to the mix and all the new legislation.

"Normally when new legislation comes in it’s brought in slowly, officers are given sufficient training. Now sometimes we’re getting updates on legislation the day it comes in, sometimes a day after."

Pressures caused by the lockdown added to the stress experienced by officers.

Ms Wakefield cited examples of officers finishing their shift and then having to help with home schooling. Others getting home after a night shift had to stay up and look after their children so their partners could work.

She added: “That’s not even taking into account the emotional impact.

"Knowing they are out on the front line, being exposed to the virus, and then potentially taking it home to their families."

According to official figures more than 220 Hampshire officers suffering from stress and mental health issues were signed off sick in each of the past four financial years.

A Hampshire police spokesman said: "As a force, all our staff and officers want to serve the public and support their colleagues.

"They understand the importance of ensuring they are resilient and, as a force, we work hard to balance the workload.

"We have a range of Occupational Health services and we have options on how we can support people in the workplace, so they do not necessarily have to take days off, as we are able to support them in the workplace and moderate the work they are doing.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure we have a healthy and resilient workforce."