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The roads to Scotland will be busy today.
03 Dec 2016


After Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland published a report into call handling at Police Scotland contact centres following the M9 tragedy, the pressure has been on the national force over the way it manages calls for assistance.

And a Freedom of Information request has shown how HMICS’ report identified a staggering 82 ‘notable incidents’ among the calls to the force’s 999 and 101 lines, events where learning in serious near misses can be gained.

Senior police leaders from the rest of the UK will be shocked at these figures; I expect many are right now beating a path to the force’s management team to find out how it has done it.

These figures are quite remarkable in that they represent just 0.004 per cent of the 2.2 million calls to these emergency and, crucially, non-emergency lines.

Take a moment to consider the last ten work calls you have received. Or perhaps the last ten messages that have been taken by colleagues on your behalf. How many have included a wrong telephone number, or perhaps did not even reach you?

And these were probably from people who were calm, sober and not in a crisis.
I know police call centres are dealing with critical incidents, but they are also facing incoherent calls, uncooperative people and a huge number that need to be filtered out so officers are free to deal with the real emergencies.

In many cases, calls can be confused by the fact the caller has difficulties in communicating.

It is so easy to claim that one notable incident is too many when you have all the time in the world to assess events and there is no pressure on getting the decision wrong. But the response from politicians to these remarkable figures does not do them much credit.

If you had asked them before these figures came out, given the difficulties and pressures, how many out of a thousand calls would result in a ‘notable incident’, they would have probably said three or four.

It is one in 22,500.

They will not say what level is acceptable but what the revelations tell us is there is learning going on, and many call centre managers elsewhere will be keen to benefit from Police Scotland’s developments.

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