Police commissioner promises to speed up 999 call response times

A North East police boss has promised a “relentless focus” on cutting the time it takes to answer 999 calls.

Figures published by the Home Office earlier this year revealed Northumbria Police was the slowest force in the country for answering 999 calls, with an average time of 33.3 seconds – more than three times the expected standard of 10 seconds.

Despite ‘Good’ ratings in several areas, a report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) last month found the force ‘Requires Improvement’ in responding to emergency 999 calls.

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And while Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), insisted responses to emergency calls were starting to improve, she also warned demand is comparable to a New Year’s Eve-scale event every weekend.

Northumbria Police is dealing with a high volume of 999 calls.
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This week's Northumbria Police and Crime Panel heard 75% of 999 calls to Northumbria Police were answered within the 10-second target in June, July, and August, on average.

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For non-urgent 101 calls, however, fewer than 40% were picked up within 60 seconds.

"The police have heard no end of it from me in terms of the scrutiny on that – it is not acceptable,” Ms McGuinness told the committee.

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Current Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kim McGuinness.

“Demand is higher than ever before.

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"The number of calls coming in can be compared to a New Year’s Eve every single weekend at the moment, which shows that there are other issues across the system with people not getting adequate support from other agencies in areas like mental health.”

Plans to recruit extra call handlers were unveiled last December.

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In the 12 months to August, 999 calls to Northumbria Police increased by 29% compared to 2021 – from 237,000 to 306,000.

Ms McGuinness added: “We have had 50 new call handlers in already and there are more still to come. They are becoming more and more efficient, you can see that in the number improving.

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“Please be reassured that there is a relentless focus on 999 and 101 and we are starting to see improving come up sharply.

“But the big caveat is that demand continues to grow.

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"We are seeing improvement against continued demand, the staff are having to do more and more all the time because of the increasing demand.”