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Police 101 Service: "Unacceptable"

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2:49pm 20th November 2014
(Updated 2:49pm 20th November 2014)

A report has branded the police non-emergency line in Cornwall and Devon "unacceptable."

It has found that one in five callers to 101 has to wait more than 20 minutes to speak to the right person.

It comes just weeks after front counters in Penzance, Falmouth, Newquay, Liskeard, and Launceston closed.

The main findings of the report, commissioned by Cornwall and Devon Crime Comissioner, Tony Hogg, are:

  • Calls are answered promptly at the switchboard and within times that are consistent with other forces, or equivalent non-emergency contact services;
  • However, the average waiting time to speak with someone that can handle the callers query is over six minutes;
  • Half of all callers wait over 10 minutes and one in five callers waits more than 20 minutes;
  • Call handlers are conscientious and caring and deal with callers in a professional manner;
  • Performance priorities within the contact centre are unclear meaning opportunities are missed to improve service though a greater focus on these priorities;

The technology is not fit for purpose and is a substantial barrier to delivering a better service.

Yvonne from Hayle called several times about domestic violence and on one occasion, had to wait more than an hour: "People feel that there isn't the help out there for them to get when they need it and you just feel that you're on your own and also that you have to deal with things on your own and sometimes that might not be the best way to deal with things.

Glenda from Bude hung up after waiting to report anti-social behaviour: "I just couldn't get through at all; I tried and tried and tried.

"I was frustrated and I thought why have it? I mean it wasn't serious - if it had been serious then, obviously, it would've been a 999 call but I did think at the time I wouldn't bother again."

Mr Hogg said: "The public has been telling me they are not satisfied with the 101 service.

"I commissioned this review to find out the accurate picture about the quality of service.

"This report clearly shows that the service being provided is not acceptable and must be improved.  

"I will continue to closely monitor performance until such time as I am satisfied that it is improving and a reasonable service is being provided."

Mr Hogg has agreed with the Chief Constable that an improvement plan is put in place to improve the quality of service.  

The key elements of this plan will be to:

  • To review the processes that determine the journey each call takes;
  • To assess the level of resources (staffing and ICT) required to provide an acceptable service;
  • To recruit and train the necessary staff;
  • To ensure that plans to replace the technology are hastened and that the effective checks are undertaken to ensure that any new technology will fully support a high quality service.

"It is clear that control room staff are working very hard and doing the best they can in difficult circumstances", said report author, OPCC Performance Manager, Dr Karen Vincent.

"However, staff are frustrated in providing a good service by poor technology, a lack of support from wider corporate systems, such as email and answerphone, and an inability to match the staffing resources more effectively to the caller demand.

"It is not possible at this time to say what is an acceptable length of time for calls to be dealt with, as this will need to be assessed and costed. It is clear that some improvements could be made immediately, whilst substantial improvements are on offer following the introduction of new systems and staffing resources."

Chief Superintendent Jim Nye said: "I want all calls to be answered quickly and to get the outcome that they want quickly, we will be introducing next year a new automated switchboard and we will be giving front line police officers mobile data devices that will allow a lot of the work to be done on a tablet.

"We will be improving the technology, also we will be recruiting additional staff to work in the contact centres, also we have two national initiatives, one is 'Report My Loss' so you can report the loss of your property online, and in the future you will be able to track your crime online."

2:49pm 20th November 2014

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