Northumbria, North Yorkshire and Durham police among slowest forces to answer 999 calls

Northumbria Police was also named the worst in the country for answering calls within a minute since November 2021. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Three forces in the North East and North Yorkshire have been named as some of the slowest in the country at answering 999 calls.

Northumbria, North Yorkshire and Durham Police all featured in the bottom five out of the UK's 44 forces for average answering time.

According to new data from the Home Office, Northumbria Police took an average of 33.3 seconds to answer emergency calls between 1 November 2021 and 30 April 2022 - making it the worst-performing force.

North Yorkshire came in second bottom with 29.3 seconds, while Durham was the fifth slowest at 22.8.

The nationwide average was 16.1 seconds. Only one force in the UK managed to hit the target of answering 90% of calls in under 10 seconds - Avon and Somerset Police, who did so 92% of the time.

How did our region's forces perform?

Northumbria Police

  • Mean average answer time: 33.3 seconds

  • Calls answered within 10 seconds: 55%

  • Calls not answered within 60 seconds: 16%

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North Yorkshire Police

  • Mean average answer time: 29.3 seconds

  • Calls answered within 10 seconds: 44%

  • Calls not answered within 60 seconds: 13%

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Durham Constabulary

  • Mean average answer time: 22.8 seconds

  • Calls answered within 10 seconds: 41%

  • Calls answered not answered within 60 seconds: 10%

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Cleveland Police

  • Mean average answer time: 8.5 seconds

  • Calls answered within 10 seconds: 82%

  • Call answered not answered within 60 seconds: 1%

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Durham Constabulary fell the furthest short of this standard of any force in the country, only answering within 10 seconds 41% of the time.

Northumbria Police also fared worst in the country at answering calls within a minute, with callers waiting over 60 seconds 16% of the time.

Cleveland Police was by far the region's best-performing force. Responders there took an average of 8.5 seconds to answer calls, with 82% being answered in under 10 seconds.

Commenting on the national results, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "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," she added.

Priti Patel speaking at the Police Superintendents' Association Conference. Credit: PA

"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."

Regional and national police bosses have said high levels of demand and even the prevalence of prank calls are responsible.

National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) lead for contact management, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said:

"This is the first time police forces and the public have been able to see the time it takes to answer 999 calls from the call being made by the public, it being connected to the police by BT and local providers, to it being answered by police call handlers.

"There is a huge amount of pressure put on call-handlers, who work tireless to provide the right support and advice in someone’s time of need, but we are far too often seeing some from within our society, inappropriately using 999.

"We know one of our biggest areas of concern for 999 calls to the police are prank calls."

Assistant Chief Constable Scott Young, of Northumbria Police, said the force had been "very open" about the challenges it is facing such as a significant increase in 999 calls.

The force said 2021 was "exceptionally busy" as a result of easing lockdown restrictions while severe storms have also led to a rise in calls.

So far this year the number of calls are up almost 40% compared to the same time last year.

Asst Chf Con Young said: “We are absolutely committed to providing the very best service possible to the communities we serve and have already invested in new technology, which will help ensure we continue to direct our resources to where they are most needed."

The force has in the last year recruited 65 new contact handlers and has plans to bring in 60 more by the end of the year.

In a statement, North Yorkshire Police said their performance "falls below the standard that our communities deserve" but pointed to "current elevated levels of demand" and said they hope to recruited 10% more control room staff by September.

A spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: "We are taking steps to improve this response: installing a new telephony system which will go live early next year; bringing in an extra 12 call handlers on top of our normal recruitment; exploring new technologies which will enhance our call handling ability and trying to reduce inappropriate use of 999.

"We are confident these measures will further improve performance over the coming year.

"We have also invested additional resources into our response teams to improve the total time between the initial phone call coming in and a police officer reaching the scene to deal with their emergency."