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New data shows how quickly Suffolk Police answer emergency 999 calls



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The time it takes each UK police force to answer 999 calls has been published for the first time, in a bid to speed up the service.

The figures, published by the Home Office, show how Suffolk Police is faring when compared to the UK average, and to its closest neighbours.

On average across the country, police forces receive a 999 call every three seconds.

The time it takes each UK police force to answer 999 calls has been published for the first time, in a bid to speed up the service. Stock image
The time it takes each UK police force to answer 999 calls has been published for the first time, in a bid to speed up the service. Stock image

The data shows that 71 per cent of these are answered within the target of under 10 seconds across the UK, with an overall average of 16.1 seconds answer time.

Suffolk beats the UK average, in terms of its percentage of 999 calls being answered within 10 seconds of them being made, at 81 per cent.

But the force's overall average is slower than that of the national average at 19.0 seconds answer time.

The figures, published by the Home Office, show how Suffolk Police is faring when compared to the UK average, and to its closest neighbours. Stock image
The figures, published by the Home Office, show how Suffolk Police is faring when compared to the UK average, and to its closest neighbours. Stock image

A total of 12 per cent of the emergency calls made to Suffolk Police - according to the data which covers calls made between November 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022 - were picked up between 10 and 60 seconds.

And seven per cent were answered after 60 seconds.

There was considerable variation across Suffolk's neighbouring forces.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary's average answering time was 13.5 seconds, while Essex Police's was slightly faster at 12.1 seconds, and Norfolk Police's was even quicker than that, at 8.3 seconds.

As for the percentage of calls answered under 10 seconds, Cambridgeshire came in at 72 per cent, with Essex at 79 per cent and Norfolk at 84 per cent.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the data was being published in the hope of improving the service.

She said: “Calling 999 can literally be a matter of life and death. The public deserve to know that their local police force will be at the end of the phone, ready to leap into action at seconds’ notice to protect them from harm.

“Fundamentally, publishing this data is about driving up standards in our incredible emergency services even further, so that the public can have every confidence in the police’s ability to save lives and keep our streets safe.

“We can now see where forces are excelling and where vital improvements need to be made and I thank the police for their commitment to ensuring we maintain the best emergency services in the world.”

Officials say there are a range of reasons for disparities between the figures, and the data is likely to vary each month.

"Police forces are operationally independent, and each will have its own unique pressures to identify and address," a Home Office spokesman said.

"Prank calls, a lag time in connecting and inappropriate use of 999 to call for issues that are not emergencies, can all contribute to delays in answering.

"The lag time, between dialling 999 and being connected to a call-handler, can be up to seven seconds in some areas. Some police forces are already reviewing their telephony systems and working with BT to resolve this.

"Seasonal periods, such as New Year’s Eve, particularly hot or cold weather, concerts and festivals, can also have a significant impact on waiting times in some forces, due to peaks in people travelling to the force area.

"An overall picture of a force’s effectiveness in answering emergency calls, considering these factors, will continue to be refined as the data collection continues."

On average across the country, police forces receive a 999 call every three seconds. Stock image
On average across the country, police forces receive a 999 call every three seconds. Stock image

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for contact management Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said the data showed the high level of demand being placed on call handlers on a daily basis throughout the UK.

“We can see between November 2021 to April 2022, policing answered over 3.7 million calls in under ten seconds and a further 1.2 million in under 60 seconds," he added.

APCC Local Policing leads, Alison Hernandez and Jeff Cuthbert, said the data demonstrated the demand for policing and the volume of calls forces are dealing with across the country.

“The public quite rightly expect the police to respond to 999 calls in good time, so Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be using this data to get a grip on performance across our local forces, hold our chief constables to account and ensure members of the public are receiving an efficient and effective response when they report to 999," they said.

“As the public’s voice in policing, PCCs are very keen to better understand the experiences of the public when contacting their local forces, which is why the APCC issued a national survey on contact management earlier this month to help identify any challenges around where the public report crime through both 101 and 999 services.

“PCCs are committed to supporting excellence in policing and will use this data to continually drive forward improvements and hold the police to account on behalf of the public.”