Only three 999 calls made to Yorkshire’s largest police force were abandoned in the last four months, despite a rise in the number of emergency calls being made.
West Yorkshire Police says the performance of its call centre, which picked up all but 0.00002 per cent of 999 calls, was the best in the country over this period.
Of the three 999 calls which were abandoned, the force says none was an emergency and one related to a man who got stuck in a child’s swing and managed to release himself before call centre staff could pick up.
But according to a report to be discussed by a scrutiny panel this week, the performance of the force’s under-pressure 101 service remains “inconsistent”, with some “very difficult weeks” as well as some of its best figures of the year.
Like neighbouring North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police has seen average waiting times for callers to its non-emergency call service soar in recent years.
Bosses are attempting to manage increased demand while tackling high staffing turnover rates and a lack of experienced employees at the customer contact centre (CCC).
According to a report to be discussed by a scrutiny panel this week, the 101 service has suffered as a result of budget cuts and the force’s desire to protect its “critical 999 service”.
Demand on the 999 service has increased by around nine per cent in a year, while the number of times members of the public have contacted the force online has risen by 17.9 per cent.
West Yorkshire Police is also receiving more non-police calls because of increased demand on other health and social care services. The report said: “We have also had significant periods of improvement on 101, however, this has been inconsistent despite having the best 101 performance we have ever seen at points during this year we have also had some very difficult weeks.”
It added: “Part of this issue stems from a lack of experienced staff in the room and having to utilise experienced staff to monitor/train and coach them.
“Currently we have 60 per cent of staff with less than 16 months service and 60 staff in various stages of training.
“Our innovative training Hub means that we can minimise impact on the department by a better experienced staff to new staff” ratio, the demands are still significant - but are being met.”
The report said staff at the customer contact centre tended to move to other roles within West Yorkshire Police as they often see it as a stepping stone in their career.
“The recent changes to staff terms and conditions mean that new staff to CCC will have to stay with us for a minimum of 9 months before being able to apply for posts within the organisation (and actually potentially longer taking into account the application process) and this will assist.”
To cope with rising demand, the force has introduced a web chat facility to report concerns, as well as the option to book a call back and a ‘track my crime’ service.
A ‘police aware’ message on the 101 system tells callers that the force already know about incidents or issues they may be calling about.
The main computers have been upgraded with faster processors to handle calls and data better.
It was reported earlier this year that soaring numbers of 999 calls to police were being abandoned nationwide. But West Yorkshire Police says its 999 performance is being used as an example to other forces.