Emergency calls have been well above the expected levels since May and have been continuing to increase throughout the summer.
On Saturday (9 September) we took a staggering 1,000 999 calls in a 24-hour period. In the same week, we also exceeded the demand expected on New Year’s Eve on four separate occasions – making it one of the busiest weeks we’ve ever had in Staffordshire.
Despite this unprecedented demand, we’ve been working hard to answer the highest priority calls as quickly as possible. Our average time to answer 999 calls in August was nine seconds, which is within our target of ten seconds, despite calls being well above expected volumes.
It’s one of the many reasons why we’ve changed the structure in our control room, invested in our triage function to signpost callers to appropriate services and recruited extra staff members this year.
The recent demand increases saw significant numbers of misdialled, abandoned or pocket calls to 999 operators. Even if people don’t mean to call us or they change their mind last minute, our staff still need to make sure that they’re okay – which takes time.
If you know that you’ve dialled 999 by mistake, please give us a call and tell us that you’re okay. It could be the difference between us getting to someone in danger faster.
And, whilst we don’t want to discourage people from calling 999 in a real emergency, we’ve also been experiencing calls which aren’t genuine emergencies.
In July, we shared some examples on social media to highlight the challenges we are facing. One of these calls included a woman who dialled 999 because her drive had been blocked by a parked car. Another example included a group of young people who were repeatedly calling 999 as a hoax.
We will take action against those who are calling us maliciously. Last month, we applied for a criminal behaviour order for a person who was calling us, without reason, repeatedly.
Force Operations Chief Superintendent Emily McCormick said: "Officers and staff in our contact centre are dealing with an increasingly broad range of incidents on a daily basis which all pose their own unique challenges.
"One of the most important aspects of modern policing is that initial contact with a victim or vulnerable person.
"We’ve invested heavily in our triage function and digital contact services to help with this demand. We know there’s lots of work to do, but we’ve put steps in place to help us service this unprecedented demand as effectively as possible and provide the best possible service to our communities.
"If your call isn’t an emergency, please use alternative contact methods such as online and digital chat."
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire & Rescue and Crime Ben Adams said: "When people call the police, they expect their calls to be answered quickly and for the police to be able to deal effectively with their issues, which is why improving contact was an absolute priority in my police and crime plan.
"In recent months, callers will have noticed improvements to the way their call was handled with faster answer times and a more effective initial response.
"With the help of council tax payers, I approved additional investment into our control centre to improve call answering times, expand the specialist team and make improvements to the triage system put in place to better manage the risk to the individual.
"Despite the unprecedented demand on the contact centre, 85% of all calls are now answered within 10 seconds, placing the force sixth out of 43 nationally in June 2023."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About Staffordshire Police:
Staffordshire Police is the territorial police force responsible for policing Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands of England.
Published: Monday, September 18, 2023
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