Top police officer with Covid-19 symptoms ‘on ventilator’ as virus hits forces

A top police officer is “on a ventilator” with Covid-19 symptoms as coronavirus hits forces’ numbers across the country.

Chief Superintendent Phil Dolby is now being treated in an intensive care unit, colleagues said, after becoming unwell just over a week ago.

The senior West Midlands Police officer had been posting regular Twitter updates charting his progress when, on Sunday, he posted a video showing his surroundings, having been admitted to a hospital isolation ward.

Updating people on Mr Dolby’s condition on Tuesday, colleagues said: “He is currently in an ITU on a ventilator and is being looked after by the amazing @NHSuk.

“Positive thoughts and prayers for him please. #COVID19”

A force spokeswoman said Assistant Chief Constable Chris Johnson had been in continuous contact with Mr Dolby’s wife and family who are asking friends and colleagues “to keep Phil in their thoughts and to pray for him”.

It comes as forces have seen sickness and self-isolation rates impact officer and staff numbers.

On Tuesday, Lincolnshire Police’s chief constable Bill Skelly said roughly double the number of officers he would expect to be absent were not at work due to coronavirus-related issues.

Mr Skelly said this was still “some distance below” where he believed the force would be.

He said: “We have roughly 6% who are absent for Covid-19 reasons.

“That’s either because they have symptoms or because they are caring for others.

“If we see numbers rising towards a peak, we have to think, what can we do in order to alleviate the pressure on the force.”

Mr Skelly will be speaking to officers heading for retirement about postponing their decision and asking retired police to return in case the number of absent officers rises significantly.

Chief Constable Bill Skelly
Chief Constable Bill Skelly

Dorset Police’s chief constable, James Vaughan, said the proportion of his workforce off was in the “high teens”.

“Overall about 300 people out of a workforce of 2,500 that are self-isolating,” he added.

West Midlands Police has more than 1,000 officers and staff off work or unable to carry out normal duties at West Midlands Police because of sickness or self-isolation, a senior national policing source said.

There are about 6,500 officers and 3,000 staff at the force – the largest outside London’s Met – with the numbers affected by Covid-19 accounting for one in ten of its compliment.

Mr Dolby, in charge of the force’s criminal justice services, had been posting social media updates on his own condition at the weekend.

He talked of enduring “some frightening episodes of breathlessness and dizziness”.

“111 called an ambo. Conveyed to hospital,” he added.

“Now got oxygen mask, canulars, blood test, Covid tests, chest x-ray and some snory neighbours.

“Shame as it is daughters 15th birthday today. #Covid-19”

His chief constable Dave Thompson responded saying: “Get well, Phil”, as did Staffordshire Police chief and former West Midlands officer, Gareth Morgan, who said: “All the very best Phil – you’re in good hands.”

Late Day 7. Some frightening episodes of breathlessness and dizziness. 111 called an ambo. Conveyed by @OFFICIALWMAS to hospital. Now got oxygen mask, canulars, blood test, COVID tests, chest x-ray and some snory neighbours. Shame as it is daughters 15th birthday today.

— Ch Supt Phil Dolby (@PhilDolbyWMP) March 29, 2020

The previous day he praised the “excellent” doctor he had spoken to on 111, adding: “Had some anxious moments in last 24 hrs.

“I’ve looked better too!

“Temp of 37.9 but somehow still feel really cold.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has refused to say how many police have been self-isolating and off work but some individual forces have provided information.

Last week, Merseyside Police said 12% of the workforce were off sick with around 5% self-isolating for Covid-19 symptoms.

Cumbria and Greater Manchester forces both said 10% of their workforces were absent.

The rate was 12% in Devon and Cornwall and 6% in Durham.

Although not all absences would have been for self-isolation.

The Metropolitan Police reportedly already had an absence rate of 20%.