By Graham Chalmers
Set in 10 acres of lovely grounds, in these security-conscious times you’re not usually allowed in St Andrews Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate - unless you’re an injured or ill police officer.
But this grand institution, which has been a feature of the Harrogate landscape for more than 100 years, is set to throw its doors open to the public for free this Sunday, September 13 as part of the district-wide Heritage Open Days scheme.
Sunday will see it open from 10.30am to 4pm with guided tours and refreshments - but I’m lucky enough to be granted an advance tour of the facilities.
Established in 1903 and one of only two such centres in the country, this gorgeous great house ‘hidden’ off Harlow Hill has the look of a converted stately home from an old war movie, the sort of place where Spitfire pilots would sit around in bath chairs after being injured in the Battle of Britain.
But it’s got a serious mission.
A police officer is assaulted every 27 minutes in the UK. Fifty-four are attacked on the streets of Britain every day.
It’s easy to take for granted the fact that the police put their lives at risk on a daily basis.
It’s less so when one of the phyios tells me this: “We see the results of shootings and stabbings all the time.
“Things have got worse with illegal highs. Police officers never know what they are going to encounter. Some have been bitten. Some are hit by cars then dragged along the road. Others are kicked and punched and left for dead.”
Fortunately, Libor cash totalling £502,000 has allowed the Police Treatment Centre to buy the sort of elite gym equipment used by the likes of the British Cycling, the UK’s Olympic team and runners Mo Farrar and Paula Radcliffe.
The statistics for the results of all that good work at the Police Treatment Centre are impressive.
A total of 72% of their patients report a return to a normal level of activity after six weeks.
Sunday’s open days of tours and more for the public runs from 10.30am to 4pm and is par of a drive to highlight St Andrew’s close relatons to the town and its people.
The centre’s chief executive, Colonel Patrick Cairns says maintaining links with the community is crucial.
“Police officers come here from the four corners of the UK. We pride ourselves on our class-leading facilties but it’s also essential to have a good relationship with local residents. “
But these are tough times for the police force.
Under the pressure of the government’s financial restrictions, thousands of officers have been lost from the service in recent years.
Fewer officers mean the remaining ones are stretched further and put under more stress at work creating increased demand for the facilities.
But because most of the funding for said faciltities comes from police officers themselves through weekly voluntary donations, the revenue stream for the Police Treatment Centre has never been more under threat.
Colonel Cairns said: “We’ve lost almost 5,000 donors in recent years, mainly as a result of the reduction in officer numbers.”
Attempts are now being made to reverse the fall in the number of donors who provide the bulk of their income and annual running costs.
For the first time ever, the whole modern range of police volunteers will be able to sign up for PTCs, paying the modest £1.30 a week which entitles them to free treatment.
That’s not just PCs but PCSOs, Special Constables, and detention/custody officers.
As a force, the police are well known for being great fundraisers for a whole host of other groups and charities, though not so much for themselves.
Perhaps next week’s open day is the first step on the way to securing the sort of public support Help for Heroes gets?
For more information, visit Police Treatment Centres website