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Demands on 999 hitting New Year's Eve levels every day

24 Jul 2021

Demands on 999 hitting New Year's Eve levels every day: call centre

The country’s emergency services are urging people to only use the 999 system in a genuine emergency as demand on the number continues to be high. 

There have been more than 100,000 calls to the emergency line every day for over a month and this is placing significant pressure on control rooms. 

On an average day the number of calls to 999 would be around 90,000. 

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Contact Management, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, said: 

“We are consistently seeing demand on 999 as high as it would be on New Year's Eve and so we’re appealing for people to use the service responsibly. 

“999 should only be called in a genuine emergency when you need immediate assistance and not simply because you cannot get through on non-emergency numbers. If you misuse the service you risk those in genuine need of urgent help waiting longer to get through. 

“The demands and pressures on policing are now back to pre Covid levels and with the warm weather and a summer of sport, that is only likely to increase so I would appeal to people to be responsible and look after themselves. Anyone with a genuine need for emergency assistance, where life or property is in immediate danger should always call 999, otherwise please get in touch with us either online at or by calling 101.” 

Darryl Keen, National Fire Chiefs Council’s Lead for Operational Communications, commented: 

“Calls for assistance to fire and rescue services are currently in line with what we would expect and in the event of an incident we will respond and provide the help you need.  

“However, demand placed on our other blue light colleagues impacts on the fire service’s ability to quickly reach them when a coordinated, multi agency response is needed.  

“We ask that people ensure they use the 999 service appropriately, ensuring it is only for emergency situations and where there is risk to life so all emergency services can continue to provide you with the fast response you need.” 

Calls to the 999 service are answered first by BT operators and then passed to the emergency service the caller requests. Demand on the service has been increasing in recent months. 

The average number of calls connected to police this month is 34,000 a day compared to 29,500 in the same period last year. Only around 20-25% of these calls will be deemed to require an immediate emergency response from police. 

Recent unnecessary calls to police on 999 include from a man who was being followed home by a cat, a man asking to speak to Sting, the lead singer of The Police, about a broken vinyl and a woman asking when her next train would be. 

Abuse of the service can result in criminal action. A man has recently been charged for calling 999 49 times in the space of six hours.