Police commissioner says force has improved 999 call answering times

Adam Simmonds
Adam Simmonds

Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds has published a report looking at how 999 calls are handled by Northamptonshire Police.

The report follows concerns last year that calls were going unanswered or not being answered for a long time.

It reads: “When a member of the public calls the police they rightly expect the telephone to be answered promptly and professionally. During 2012 the number of calls to Northamptonshire Police which were answered quickly - or at all - fell well below customer expectations.

“From the low points of 2012, call handling performance has shown a dramatic improvement, with service levels for answering both emergency (999) and non emergency calls being attained from November onwards.

“The police control room is now in a significantly better position to facilitate provision of a high standard of customer service. This has been achieved whilst saving a substantial amount of money. In addition, confidence in Northamptonshire Police dealing with the things that matter continued to rise during the summer.”

The report shows that 95 per cent of 999 calls were generally answered within the target 10 seconds up to January 2012 but changes to control room staffing levels saw a decline in standards resulting in the lowest rate of 56.6 per cent on July. The situation improved each month after this period returning to the 95 per cent target by December.

The number of abandoned calls also increased during this period. August was the worst month with 166 abandoned 999 calls - 1.6 per cent of all 999 calls.

Mr Simmonds said: “During my campaign to be elected Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner, many people told me they had concerns about the answering of 999 calls by the Northamptonshire police control room.

“I looked into this and was disappointed by what I found. So I promised that if I was elected I would commission a full scrutiny of what was going wrong.

“We are the first police and crime commission in the country to undertake this kind of independent scrutiny, which is an important part of our role. I am pleased that this thorough scrutiny has been carried out. Dramatic improvements have been made.”

Northamptonshire Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: “The force control room is vitally important to our effectiveness as a police force and the level of service we deliver to people of the county. During the past year a significant change programme commenced to ensure that the force managed risk significantly better, improved value for money and reduced costs. During that journey, which was deliberately thorough and challenging, there were periods of poor performance.

“The force control room team, led by Superintendent Mick Stamper, worked very hard to improve our management of risk and performance and the current performance figures reflect this. We are responding when our public need us and this is our primary aim.

“I welcome the recent scrutiny by the commissioner. The findings are fair and balanced, and it clearly reflects the improvements in risk management and value for money. The service we are now delivering costs almost £2m less each year than it used to. Most importantly, on the completion of this journey we are providing a service to the people of the county that we are proud of.”

The report is available to view on the PCC website at this link or under the Scrutiny heading.