Dorset Police has come bottom of the pile when it comes to answering 999 calls data available for the end of last year shows.

The latest data available - for the months October and November 2023 - reveals out of 44 forces Dorset Police took the longest to answer 999 calls for both months.

Police forces in England aim to answer 90% of 999 calls within 10 seconds; this response time is based on the time it takes for a force to answer a call passed on from BT.

However, Dorset Police only managed to answer 70.2% of calls in October in under 10 seconds and 75.1% in November, a national low for both months.

Out of 10,849 calls in October, 7,621 were answered within the 90% target and for November 7,417 calls out of 9,880 hit target.

The top force for October was Gwent Police with a 90.6 per cent of calls answered within 10 seconds. In November it was Greater Manchester (93.9 per cent).

Dorset Police chiefs have put this down to reduced staffing levels during this period and are investing in ways to continue to improve their response time.

Chief Superintendent Gavin Dudfield, Commander for Contact Management and Prevention, said: “Nationally police forces are working hard to improve call handling performance and in Dorset we are no different.

“We have invested in enhanced training to improve our capability to answer more 999 calls and we have also reviewed our resourcing at peak times to ensure as many people as possible are available to take calls from the public. 

“Furthermore, we continue to develop our improvement plans as we invest in technology to allow call takers to answer more calls within the national 10 second target.”

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“During the months of October and November, Dorset Police had reduced staffing levels due to training and staff sickness, which resulted in the force taking a number of seconds longer, on average to answer calls.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to meet the target of answering calls within 10 seconds. During October, the national data indicates that Dorset Police answered 999 calls, on average within 16.15 seconds and 10.8 seconds in November.

“However, as with other police forces nationally, internal data which records the time that the emergency call is made available to Dorset Police indicates that the average call answer time was 11.6 seconds and 9.22 seconds for each month respectively.”

Falling down the league table in October and November does not reflect the true landscape of the force's response time, though,  as it saw a marked improvement from 2022.

Chief Supt Dudfield said: “Despite these challenging months, I am pleased to see the national data indicates that the force has reduced the amount of time it takes to answer emergency calls.

“BT data indicates that Dorset Police answered 999 calls, on average, in 12.62 seconds between the period of 1 January 2023 to 30 November 2023.

“During this same date range other forces answered calls on average between 7.29 and 35.21 seconds.

“This is an improvement from the previous year where BT data indicates that Dorset Police answered emergency calls, on average after 17.87 seconds.”

Dorset Police also received 27,500 accidental calls and urge the public to prevent making the mistaken calls as it takes up valuable time and prevents them from supporting genuine emergencies, which they reassure the public will receive a prompt response.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick added: “I continue to hold the Chief Constable to account for Dorset Police’s response to both emergency and non-emergency calls, and I am pleased to see the constant effort to improve.

“For example, over the highest period of demand last summer, the time taken to respond to calls was improved compared to the same period in the previous year.

“I am also sure that Dorset residents will understand that the time taken to answer calls is not the only important measure and will be interested that in recent months Dorset Police has improved its deployment processes which have brought about a 10% improvement in emergency attendance times.”