WILTSHIRE’S police and crime commissioner has waded into a GP phone lines row.

It follows comments from Dr Martyn Diaper, boss at trouble-hit firm IMH, that he wanted to encourage more people to go online to access GP services, like booking appointments.

“People are phoning up, when we could offer them other services. So, people could use online services and we could get appointments to them,” he told BBC Wiltshire.

But the suggestion seemed to fail to impress Angus Macpherson, who has served as Wiltshire’s police commissioner since 2012.

In a blog reacting to Dr Diaper’s radio appearance, Mr Macpherson said it was wrong to try and force change by withdrawing a service. There is no suggestion that IMH is stopping people from booking GP appointments by phone, although patients facing hour-long telephone waits have reported hanging up.

The commissioner compared the issues facing patients at the five IMH-linked Swindon doctors’ surgeries with the challenge at Wiltshire Police’s 999 and 101 call centre in Devizes.

“The performance has fallen below the acceptable level in the past but resources have been put in to maintain the service level,” Mr Macpherson wrote.

“Over the past few years there has been a lot of pressure to reduce costs, one of which was to move to a regional call answering service. This will not happen in Wiltshire. It is not on the agenda. It is not what the people of Swindon and Wiltshire want from the service they fund.”

He said it should be possible for victims in Swindon to report crimes online, as happens elsewhere in the country.

“However, this will not be done in a way which in anyway is forced on the public.

“Whilst we may encourage a change to this cyber solution we must always recognise that there will be people, and a great number of them, who want to speak on the phone and cannot deal with the unfamiliar process of ‘online’ whilst dealing with a crisis. The change will come in time. To force it by the withdrawal of a service is the wrong way though. Let's plan for the withering of the phone service, not the removal.”

Last weekend, the National Police Chiefs Council said police forces were considering axing the non-emergency 101 phone line through the night. The revelation was made in a letter to policing minister Nick Hurd.

A NPCC spokesman said: “999 and 101 are national services used by millions every year. Our ambition is to offer that same consistency in digital contact to better reflect changing public preferences." Wiltshire has no plans to drop the 101 service overnight, it is understood.