A police call-handling centre in Midlothian, linked to three major fatalities, has been taking calls from other UK forces, it has been claimed.
Despite major concerns over staff workloads, Bilston Glen call centre is said to be handling emergency calls from the Metropolitian Police in London and Police Service in Northern Ireland.
The call centre has been linked to at least three major fatalities since it took over responsibility for the East command area after the closure of centres in Glenrothes and Stirling in 2014.
An insider told a Sunday newspaper that a recent “surge” in calls, particularly from the Met, had pushed staff “beyond any reasonable limits”.
“We’ve never really had the resources to do the job very well for our own communities,” the anonymous worker claimed. “We’ve been associated with two of the worst mistakes since Police Scotland came into being.”
It follows a series of high-profile errors by the centre which led to the deaths of three people in the space of a year.
John Yuill and partner Lamara Bell died after their car careered off the M9 in July 2015, however it took three days for the vehicle to be retrieved after a mistake in processing the information.
Mr Yuill died at the scene, however Miss Bell, who had been trapped in the crash was still alive when officers arrived, though she later died in hospital from kidney failure caused by dehydration after spending 72 hours in the wreck.
In March 2016, Asperger’s sufferer Andrew Bow was found dead in his flat over a week after calls to centre from concerned neighbours. The insider said staff were “scared” the extra pressure may lead to further incidents.
Police Scotland have racked up a record 26 investigations by the Police Investigation and Review Commission (PIRC) since forces were merged in 2013.
The source said: “Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland found that this place was over-stretched, that staff don’t have enough time to deal with calls adequately, that procedures had changed too often and that morale was low. I can assure you that with us also having to deal with calls from people who need the police in the London area, morale is now at rock-bottom,”
“If you raise the matter with supervisors, they tell you the outside calls only come out way when we have “spare capacity”, but it never feels as thought we have anything to spare.”
At peak or busy times, calls from one part of the country can be picked up by other centres, however the service has since been extended UK-wide as part of an agreement between forces.
A Police Scotland spokesperson added: “This is simply about the ability of fully trained call handlers to deal with people calling the emergency services. It only happens when we have the capacity to deal with it.”
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “While all forces would ideally want to deal with every call directly, we have to factor in contingencies for periods of exceptional demand.”