A PILOT scheme to treat emergency workers with PTSD by taking them surfing has been developed by Dorset Police.

The county force has worked in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Police on the Surfwell Project, which is specifically tailored to meet the needs of emergency workers' mental health and has been described as the first programme of its kind in the world.

Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan said: “Surf therapy is now a key part of our wellness programme for both police officers and staff across our alliance and we have already seen clear benefits.

"We have huge ambitions for the scheme with the goal of offering the benefits to other emergency services.”

Surf therapy sessions take place on beaches across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, in a bid to treat PTSD, stress and other mental health issues.

It has already received more than £120,000 funding from a number of charitable organisations.

A police spokesman explained that both forces continue to develop the scheme, broadening the pilot which has included their own staff and members of the South West Ambulance Service.

Exeter University is also involved in monitoring the project

Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “The concept is based on research completed in the military where the success has already been demonstrated.

"It is most important that public monies are spent wisely and this continues to be evaluated.

"Early indications are that there will be a significant return on investment through reductions in days lost as a result of sickness and provision of professional medical support where illnesses have become chronic which could have been prevented."

Meanwhile, Will Warrender, chief executive officer at South West Ambulance Service said: “Our trust has seen first-hand the positive impact of this unique offering through Surfwell to our people, giving them a safe place and an alternative option to formal based counselling and therapies.

“One size does not fit all when it comes to supporting those who are struggling with their mental, emotional, social and physical health, and this is a refreshing approach to wellbeing that has made a real difference to our people who have experienced it.

“Our trust is incredibly excited to explore working in collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police, and Dorset Police to enhance and embed surf therapy as part of our health and wellbeing provision for our people, and implementing this joint approach to welfare for emergency service staff is an important part of our plans.”