Is it a 999 emergency for 111 or 112?
Two major emergency call centre incidents last year is a cause for concern.
First we have G4S with Lincolnshire Police making 999 calls to themselves(!) so as to fiddle the response times and pay-per-call figures. Not ideal in itself, nor with the G4S and Serco tentacles spreading across and through the public sector as a mega-civil-service-within-the-civil-service. As with Banks too big to fail or public sector monoliths such as BT, surely there comes a time when such contracts need to be broken up for both customer service and financial value?
Then there’s the denouement of the South East Ambulance scandal following the resignation of the Chairman before Xmas and now Paul Sutton the Managing Director falling on his sword too. This is the call centre scandal of 111 NHS calls being delayed before being put through as 999 emergency calls. Perhaps 11 avoidable deaths have been estimated as the inquiry continues – figures likely to be dwarfed by the Manston monitors and Thor mercury factory scandals in East Kent.
And there are wider issues within the first responder service of DNR Do Not Rescuscitate notices at Canterbury Hospital somehow placed on a patient’s file or relayed via the call centre system, without their consent. Essentially a modern-day death sentence. And a little further back, Police Scotland leaving a car crash victim to die in a ditch with the 999 call simply lost in the system.
If the expensive scandal of the 43 mega-fire service regional call centres has dissipated with the centres remaining empty then there’s debate on the 43x2 Police and Fire services merging together for more sensible savings.
But isn’t it time too for the merger between the 43 police forces (much of that happening by stealth with the Serious Crime Squads, and Special Branch and Counter-terrorism teams)? As well as a merger of the 101 non-emergency police call centres with council back-offices?
The NHS 111 service has had problems with a lack of trained nurses answering the calls, so it becomes little more than a vanity service pointing those with health worries either to the byzantine NHS website or to your GP or Chemist. That would anyway have happened that much quicker if you hadn’t wasted 10p on a 111 call of dubious if any value. Even without being placed on hold.
The tendency for much of the public sector to grow like topsy without effective democratic scrutiny results in such silos of duplicated and wasteful services.
But why shouldn’t all 43 forces be capable of being reduced down to c.15 without any impact on service? As well as merging Police and Fire managements, with at a minimum, removing the need for 43x2 sets of IT etc.
And why shouldn’t a 101 call-handler take care of council information on potholes or broken streetlights or parked cars? Many would argue that those are, or should be, a function of the police patrol cars when not responding to the luckily infrequent 999 calls.
Direct Entry to policing for dustbinmen has rightly caused a stir among the police (and not just envy at the pretty hi-viz jackets) in ensuring proper training - but no vast training is required for call reports of cats up trees or noisy neighbours or cheeky kids scrumping for apples?
Indeed the rollout of the 112 emergency telephone number has been far too slow over the last 25 years in UK. The 112 EU telephone number that works across all 28 EU nations and other nations is literally a lifesaver whether you’re in Bucharest, Bari or Bradford. Few would have the presence of mind to remember 28 different emergency phone numbers, and to be able to recall them under duress.
By now the 112 number should feature (one EU law worth following slavishly) on all police and fire and ambulance vehicles in UK and eslewhwere – even public sector buses and vans. Unfortunately most of the UK is stuck with promoting the 999 number, reducing awareness of 112 amongst the UK public (and confusion for foreign visitors to UK) for when they travel abroad and when the 999 number is phased out.
Indeed with pushbutton or touchscreen mobile and landline phones rather than the old rotary dial the 999 number is more at risk of accidentally being pressed, and slightly more dangerous in being cumbersome to dial the number in low visibility.
999 was chosen as it could be dialled blindfold by finding the last hole in the dial against the metal bar to dial and repeat three times – that function isn’t available with pushbutton or touchscreen handsets. And 999 as just one button, rather than two as with 112, can be more easily pressed by accident in a pocket or handbag or even in hand.
Those under 21 will have no idea at all what that last paragraph, and rotary dial phones with a metal bar, means. All the more reason for more impetus behind 112.
And shouldn’t UK emergency call centres have developed a Tourism Police service and number? UK is one of the leading tourism industry nations with a record-breaking 36M inbound visitors last year. Chinese tourists are the highest spenders in UK, and must be in Italy too, as Rome has introduced a dedicated Tourism Police and number for Chinese tourists.
While, with Arabian and Thai tourists the 2nd and 3rd highest spending visitors to UK surely the UK should take a leaf out of Thailand’s book and copy the 1155 dedicated tourism call centre and multi-lingual police service? The average bobby on the beat may not want to be fluent in Arabic or Thai but back-office linguistic skills could stimulate university courses. They would also be part of a career path for the Courts and CPS or Tube and Train services and private sector tourism and hotel industries?
Would it be so outrageous for UK to follow the ASEAN lead and nominate a second official language (English in the case of the 10 ASEAN nations – fortunately for the c.1M UK tourists that visit Thailand each year, the largest non-Asian group) to overcome the UK’s woeful foreign language skills?
Spanish for Europe and Latin America growth markets such as USA, Mexico, Argentina and Chile? And it’s similarity to Portuguese and Brazil – one of the BRIC mega-markets? Chinese or Hindi for the largest nations in the world? Russian (Polish already the UK’s most spoken foreign language) or Turkish for future EU accession?
While USA already has specific, memorable and consistent short-dial numbers for weather and transport updates. A pat on the back if you can recall the Highways Agency roadcone hotline or even the Foreign Office Disaster emergency numbers.
It’s only a matter of time before a global emergency number is developed out of the consensus of 999, 112 and 911 in most nations making safety abroad easier and faster. And the same should happen with 101 nonemergency too. And a consistent 1155 Tourism Police would be a lifesaver too for 112 Day tomorrow 11th February.
11/2 - geddit?
Time for Change
* baffled by both the Ramsgate Harbour tunnel roadworks and Pleasurama rou8ndabout - no news from KCC as yet
* cannot see how Homer and Howes can continue at TDC with the latest Cllr Driver censorship for Pleasurama corruption - outrageous abuse of a councillor's role and using public funds for spurious legal cases to shut them up - civil disobedience on refusing to pay council tax works: short pay/wrong pay/delay pay: the less money they have the less they can waste
* interesting Paul Carter KCC Leader worried about EK Supercouncil - rightly seeing it loosening KCC influence and budgets and FOI clarity etc - especially with the usual maximum council tax rise announced of rJKCC and murlky Kent Police guncops 5% increase - civl disobedience again will reduce that amount. There seems a basic lack of understanding from our elderly sheepcouncillors on exercising control of public sector budgets: pay rises/pensions/backoffice bloat (and performance evaluation) not just nodding them through