Shropshire Star

West Mercia Police miss 101 call target every month for more than a year

The region’s police have missed their own non-emergency call answering target every month since May 2020, but are “committed” to work towards it, a report says.

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The performance against targets will be discussed at a meeting of West Mercia Police and Crime Panel

West Mercia Police sets itself the goal of answering 80 per cent of 101 calls within 30 seconds.

A report by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office says this only happened once during 2020-21, and fell to its lowest point, 27 per cent, that September.

It says PCC John Campion met senior officers last month, who said they would pursue the target but it was “not feasible” to meet the target within 2021.

The report says the meeting – one of the PCC’s regular “holding to account” sessions with the force leadership – covered the “significant outage” that took place in September and the lessons that could be learned from it.

The document, discussing the force’s Operations and Communications Centre [OCC], will go before the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel tomorrow.

It says: “This calendar year to date, the PCC has received 32 contacts from the public raising concerns and complaints in regard to 101 call-handling – an increase of 12 compared to the same period in 2020.”

Diagrams in the report show the 80 per cent target was achieved in April 2020, when the 30-second call answering rate stood at 84 per cent. It dropped to 79 per cent in May then fell further over that summer.

Early this year it rallied from 39 per cent in February to 63 per cent in both May and June.

The report describes this an a “considerable improvement” taking place “despite an increase in demand linked to the easing of Covid restrictions and the Euro 2021 football tournament”.

Measures taken during this time included a trial of more efficient handling methods for some call categories and “manual ‘dip sampling’ to drive call-taker performance”.

“However, performance deteriorated from July to September 2021,” it adds.

“The reduction in call handling performance in July was associated with extraordinary 999 demand, a trend seen nationally.

“However, performance in August and September was further impacted by significant ICT power outages.”

At last month’s meeting with the PCC, the report says, “chief officers provided an overview of the significant outage in September, outlining the impact on services, staff, the public and finances and the steps taken to mitigate the outage both at the time and afterwards”.

It adds: “A number of key factors that impacted OCC performance were discussed including increased summer demand, significant disruption to systems, instability of the ICT, high staff attrition and low levels of recruitment.

“The Assistant Chief Constable provided reassurance that plans were in place to deal with the summer demand and innovative steps were being taken to improve the rate of recruitment.

“Chief officers also committed to commissioning a ‘lessons learnt’ report that would be scrutinised at a new force board focused on organisational learning.

“It was concluded that, given the current context, it would not be feasible to meet the 101 target by December 2021. However, the Chief Constable did set out the force’s commitment to work towards the 80 per cent target.”

The average 30-second call answering rate since April 2020 has been 52 per cent.

The report adds: “The PCC acknowledged the hard work of the staff in the OCC but expressed his disappointment that sustained improvements had not been made for the public.”

The local 101 target applies to West Mercia alone.

A separate national target requires 90 per cent of 999 calls to be answered within 10 seconds. This has been achieved in 10 out of the 18 months since April 2020, and the average rate for the 18 months until now is 89 per cent, according to figures in the report.

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