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Police chief: health service pressures causing 101 delays

Norfolk police control room at Wymondham. Photo: Bill Smith

Norfolk police control room at Wymondham. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Norfolk’s chief constable has said delays when calling the 101 phone line is worsened by pressures on health services as police officers pick up the slack.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve AdamsChief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Simon Bailey said the “failures of other organisations” as a result of austerity has piled additional calls onto the non-emergency phone line.

In the 12 months to November, there were 1,747 more emergency response (999) calls coming into Norfolk’s control room.

And since last summer, emergency calls have been prioritised over 101 dials, meaning waiting times may have increased.

The force has not posted data on its average time to answer 101 calls, due to an “issue in the calculation”, according to a report to its accountability forum.

“On occasion people are having to wait too long on 101,” said Mr Bailey.

He admitted the situation was “could be improved”, and said fresh officers are being trained for the peak period next summer.

By that time there should be more than 140 officers in the contact and control room, he said.

“Ultimately we have to try to address the calls coming into the control room which has nothing to do with the police service, but is demand from the failure of other organisations,” he added.

“We see a spike when those organisations are shutting down their phone lines and services. There has been real engagement with all our partners around this, and they know our concerns.

“The answer is a whole system approach to public services, which has to start in Westminster. If we are going to tackle the threats we currently face around vulnerability and child sexual exploitation we have to engage the departments for education, social care, health and communities and local government.

“They are absolutely critical in the police service being able to tackle the threat of sexual exploitation, county lines, and modern day slavery.

“101 is a very memorable number, and people will use it. We are always going to be the service of last resort. That will always be the case until there is a whole system approach.”

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