Essex Police bosses have been forced into a u-turn after reforms aimed at saving money and improving efficiency made officers more likely to suffer illness.

Figures released yesterday by the force show staff took an average of 12.39 sick days in the 12 months up to April this year, compared to 12.1 the year before and 7.68 in 2009/10.

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Nick Alston said anxiety, stress and depression related leave was an area of specific concern, as it now accounts for the loss of more than three working days per officer.

“This figure is worryingly high,” he said.

“Clearly, the root causes of this increase must be properly understood and managed.”

The biggest increase in the amount of working days lost occurred during a major restructuring of the force, which saw the introduction of more centralised management and the loss of 400 staff.

Former Essex police chief Jim Barker-McCardle led the reforms but his successor, Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, is now returning operations to local supervision.

Explaining the changes, Epping Forest Neighbourhood Inspector, Andy Fusher, said: “Having sergeants and supervisors managing a workforce they know in circumstances they understand will work a lot better.

“Under the old system some police community support officers never met their supervisor and didn’t feel valued by Essex police but a return to local supervision will improve that.”

He explained previously some teams in the county were given greater responsibility for attending emergency incidents and less of a focus on paperwork, while others took on the extra administration – leading to increased pressure on resources.

For more on this story, see this week's Guardian - out Thursday.