Skip navigation

· Research reveals that nearly half the UK population do not know their local non-emergency number
· One in five police forces still do not have a single dedicated emergency number

Research unveiled today by ntl:Telewest Business reveals the reasons behind thousands of wasted police man-hours. More than half of UK adults do not know their local non-emergency number and there is vast public confusion over the exact nature of a police emergency. Every year UK emergency services are bombarded with 999 calls, but police forces have acknowledged that up to four in five of these are of a non-emergency nature.

However the research has also found that one in five UK police forces still do not have a dedicated number adding to the confusion associated with 999 call outs.

The survey results imply that the current 999 situation has its roots in the disparity between what police consider to be an emergency and what the public considers to be an emergency. In the study Britons were given 10 situations and asked which they considered to be a real 999 emergency. These situations ranged from noisy neighbours to an elderly person being mugged. Six per cent of respondents failed to recognise that the latter was a genuine 999 emergency. The other eight situations were of a non-emergency nature and the answers to these are very revealing.

According to the study:

- 68 per cent of respondents stated that drug related anti-social behaviour would prompt them to dial 999 even though police recommend that in these situations citizens call a non-emergency number

- One in four Britons consider vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to be cause for an emergency call out

- 69 per cent of Scottish respondents correctly recognised that drunken behaviour was not an emergency compared to the UK average of 56 per cent

- One in five were misinformed and would dial 999 if their car stereo had been stolen

- Nearly one in 10 citizens did not realise that local non-emergency numbers existed

- Three per cent claim to know a UK wide non-emergency number that does not exist

Christopher Small, Director of Public Sector at ntl:Telewest Business, said: “These results should prove an eye opener for police forces across the country. With so many man-hours at stake and pressure to increase efficiency from central government it is vital that the public is educated as to the nature of a non-emergency. It is also vitally important they are made aware of their local non-emergency number.”

According to ntl:Telewest Business the research highlights a definite need for the police to educate the public about non-emergency numbers. To handle these calls efficiently, the non-emergency infrastructure has to be supported by the latest available technology. ntl:Telewest Business works with 80 per cent of emergency services in the UK, supporting their efforts to provide robust services to local residents.

“Four in five UK police forces are equipped with a single non-emergency number. However managing those calls effectively is critical to the success of such a programme. Call centres need to be prepared for unexpected influxes and the bandwidth has to be flexible. Therefore a next generation communications infrastructure has to be in place,” Small concluded.

YouGov carried out the research in March 2007 on behalf of ntl:Telewest Business.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors :

Local non-emergency numbers are available in most regions of the UK, however one in five of UK police forces still do not have a dedicated local non-emergency number. The fire service offers a varied selection of dedicated non-emergency numbers. The ambulance service does not currently offer local non-emergency numbers, the public can contact NHS Direct in an event of non-emergency.

The Home Office and Department of Communities and Local Government are currently promoting the Single Non-Emergency Number (SNEN), which will deal with non-emergency issues of policing, crime and anti-social behaviour. It is already in place in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Cardiff, Sheffield, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Leicester and Rutland. A fuller service is expected to roll out in late 2007.

About ntl:Telewest Business

ntl:Telewest Business, part of the UK’s second largest fixed-line telecommunications company, is a leading communications provider to businesses, public sector organisations and service providers in the UK. It delivers a complete portfolio of voice, data and internet solutions nation-wide.

ntl:Telewest Business sales and support teams are located across the UK, in close proximity to our customers, as part of a commitment to deliver superior customer service.

ntl:Telewest Business delivers services over the Group’s £13bn investment in its state-of-the-art infrastructure giving business customers access to the largest alternative network in the UK.

ntl:Telewest Business is trusted to provide critical communications to high profile customers including: Heathrow's Terminal 5, Birmingham City Council, Cambridge County Council.

For further information go to

ntl:Telewest Business press contacts:

Tara Flanagan, PR Executive
ntl:Telewest Business
T: 01256 753101

Rupert Walker, Press Office
Rainier PR
T: 020 7494 6596

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Speed Communications in the following categories: Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, Computing & Telecoms, for more information visit