The Home Secretary has promised to visit police forces to get a true picture of the unacceptable level of demand facing the service.

Amber Rudd, appearing at the Police Federation of England and Wales’ annual conference for the first time today, heard of a service on its knees.

Nick Smart, West Yorkshire Police Federation Chair told Ms Rudd: “I turned up at work this weekend to find my response inspector breaking down, going off on stress because of hundreds of unanswered calls.

“Custody looks like more like A&E. I have staff at the hospital looking after suicidal people and officers working extended hours and taking no meal breaks. That is the reality of policing day in, day out. Not just in West Yorkshire, but in the West Mids, the Met. Everywhere.”

Ms Rudd said she was “sorry to hear this description”, adding: “I have been visiting forces. I haven’t seen a situation like that.

When challenged, she conceded:

“I accept your invitation to come up to West Yorkshire. I do not just sit back and listen to my advisors, I do go out and visit the places myself and I will make sure I will do if I get elected.”

A representative from Norfolk Police said:

“Since I have been at this conference I have had three texts begging officers to go in on overtime. We are firefighting, we have had enough.

“I am going to guess that when you go to a force, you are going to have quite a few officers on overtime that we normally wouldn’t have and some jobs withheld so you can go on a walk around. I implore you to put in a surprise visit.”