POLICE control rooms are under so much pressure it is forcing crime chiefs to ditch their current system of answering calls, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Hampshire Constabulary is paying £27m in partnership with the Thames Valley force to revamp a system used by call handlers after new data revealed that thousands of calls to 101 and 999 were left unanswered.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request to Hampshire Constabulary showed that 1.1 per cent of 999 (3,641 out of 339,068) and 13 per cent of 101 calls (135,345 out of 985,816) were unanswered between January 2016 and June 2017.

They also showed that 2,696 calls to 999 were abandoned between July 2016 and June 2017 while 94,128 101 calls were unanswered in the same period.

Among the worst months was June of this year when two percent of 999 and 27 per cent of 101 calls went unanswered.

The figures have been slammed as “excessive” and “unacceptable” by politicians.

Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “It is shocking to discover how many emergency calls are abandoned. Currently, too many calls are not emergencies, too many are hoaxes or pranks and far too many are going unanswered but the public must do their bit too.”

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, added: “I am very concerned to see that nearly 10 per cent of calls are being abandoned. We need to know why and measures need to be put in place to ensure this does not happen.

“Nobody dials 999 lightly and all of those calls, not just some of them, need to be promptly answered and prioritised.”

Police say the new move will allow them to flag repeated callers as useful or vexatious and allow them to see if they are taking advantage by making nuisance calls.

Under the plans, both forces will install a new command and control platform which will be used to record all contact from the public including crime reported online, by telephone or in person.

The platform will also be used within the police control room to manage crime and incidents and help deploy officers in emergency and non-emergency situations.

In a statement released to the Daily Echo, Chief Superintendent Christian Bunt said: “Police forces across the country are currently facing high levels of demand into their control rooms and contact centres, and Hampshire Constabulary is no different.

“As a result, we have been working jointly with Thames Valley Police and Microsoft, as a technology partner, on a programme to deliver a new Command and Control platform which is due to be in place in the first half of 2018.

“It will enable us to provide a more victim-focused response and provide more information to the call handler to enable us to tailor our response to the needs of the caller.

“This is particularly important when dealing with people who are vulnerable. The platform will also provide us with all the information we need in one place to improve our efficiency in identifying the appropriate response and provide control room operators with better visibility of available resources and understanding of local crime issues.

“This is part of a range of work we are doing to future-proof our systems and ensure we are equipped to provide the best service possible to members of the public.”

Michael Lane, Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “The 999 and 101 service has been, and continues to be, under pressure but I would like to reassure the public that we monitor performance very closely and that the Constabulary’s response to 999 emergency calls and serious threats continues to be professional, impactful and timely.

“Over the summer there was an increase in calls that in part resulted from an increase in demand, but also reflected the public need for reassurance following on from the terrible events of this year.

“The short-term action taken has been to recruit extra staff into our control room to support the increase in demand.

“For the longer term, a project is nearing completion and will improve the public’s experience of 999 and 101, and indeed all engagement and communication with the Constabulary.

“This project is a significant improvement that will mark the next step in our journey to reach our goal to be ‘best in class’ for call handling and response.

“It is a strategic investment that takes advantage of improvements in technology to better serve our communities.”

Hampshire Police and Thames Valley Police expect the new system to launch in the first half of 2018.