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Police / Local call centre plea from Flea after woman waits 57 minutes on phone to police

A SHETLAND councillor has repeated his long-held desire for a local emergency services call centre after reports of someone waiting nearly an hour to get through to the police on the phone.

Allison ‘Flea’ Duncan, who represents Shetland South, said a woman in Lerwick waited 57 minutes when they called the non-emergency number 101.

He also told Shetland’s community safety and resilience board on Tuesday that there was another instance of a person waiting around 25 minutes last month.

Highlands and Islands divisional commander Conrad Trickett conceded that waiting 57 minutes was “not appropriate”.

But he said the person had other ways of getting in touch with the police.

However Duncan said after the meeting that the woman felt her circumstances did not warrant a 999 emergency call.

He added that Shetland area commander chief inspector Stuart Clemenson knew of the long wait and had been in touch with the woman.

Shetland South councillor Allison (Flea) Duncan. Photo: SIC

Duncan said in the incident involving the 25-minute wait the person calling for advice from the police ended up roping in support from her father who had to drive into Lerwick.

The meeting heard that the average waiting time when calling 999 in Scotland, however, is less than ten seconds.

Phone calls to the police are handled centrally on the mainland, and the public cannot directly phone the Lerwick station.

People should call 999 for emergencies and 101 for non-emergencies. The public can also use an online contact form for non-serious issues.

National figures for the month of May show the longest wait on 101 was one hour and 13 minutes.

Trickett said the call centre team on the mainland had since written a report into the 57-minute call matter.

He raised the idea of meeting elected members to discuss the issue of call handling and suggested there is a “debate to be had” into the idea of local 

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Duncan said he would speak to board vice-chair Catherine Hughson about how to discuss the matter further.

But he said it “beggars belief” that someone would call a centre on the mainland, before their message is passed up to officers in Shetland.

“There’s no need for duplication or time delay,” the councillor said.

Duncan also said if he needed to speak to the police regarding a constituent matter, he would drive from the south end to Lerwick instead of phoning.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson, however, stressed that with recruitment difficulties across the isles a local call centre could be hard to staff.

He suggested introducing a local call centre might seem like an easy solution but would be complicated in practice.

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