January 27, 2023

Some 360,000 British citizens waited more than 10 weeks for passports this year – despite a record number of applications – as staffing and system problems caused delays.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report on the delays at His Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO) found that they were caused by recruitment challengeslimitations in its systems and failed attempts to manage demand – despite efforts to plan ahead.

Due to restrictions on digital processing, 134,000 digital applications had to be moved to the less efficient, paper-based system, the report said.

Media reports of delays also caused problems, it said, as concerned travelers contacted the telephone helpline for reassurance, putting greater strain on services and staff.

While 95% of applicants received their passports within 10 weeks, about 360,000 waited longer, leading to travel disruptions for many.

From January to September this year, a record 6.9 million applications were processed, an increase of 21% compared to the same period in the pre-pandemic year 2019. More than seven million applications were submitted during that period, of which almost the half in March.

In May alone, HMPO received more than 1.2 million applications, 38% more than the highest month in the previous five years.

Lessons have been learned from the experience, the NAO said. There is improved contact with customers, capacity is being built to better manage demand in the future and the transition to a digital process is being completed, the report said.

Despite this, there was a warning for HMPO as similar demand is expected next year. An additional 9.8 million applications could be received in 2023, still above average demand.

The NAO urged HMPO to learn lessons from 2022 so that it is better prepared for such a demand.

In particular, it was encouraged to focus on improving customer expectation management, improving management information and working with the Home Office to develop a more flexible approach to managing the increased demand.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said: “The impact of COVID-19 on passport services is not unique to the UK, with passport issuing authorities around the world reporting problems for their service.

“We recognize that a small percentage of UK passport customers did not receive the service they rightly expect earlier this year. However, we have worked hard to rectify this and have processed a record number of applications for a UK passport in 2022, with over 95 of them % completed within 10 weeks.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *