Waiting times for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) consultations for ill and disabled people in Argyll and Bute have been reduced following complaints from Alan Reid MP.
Mr Reid had complained about the long delays in a Commons debate and recently met senior official from Atos Healthcare, which conducts assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. Atos is now improving its service.
The company assesses people to see how they cope with daily tasks and mobility. Depending on how their health condition or disability affects their ability to carry out certain key activities that are considered essential to daily living and getting around, they can be paid PIP, the benefit for people aged 16 to 64.
"This extra cash is vital for those who are in need. The waiting times for these consultations had been dragging on and on," said Mr Reid. "There was evidence that Atos Healthcare was saving up appointments in more remote areas like ours until they had a number of them before sending out staff to see people. Sick and disabled people were waiting several months for an assessment. This was totally unacceptable"
A spokesman for Atos Healthcare said Highlands and Islands proved a 'challenge' with how far away from the nearest PIP consultation centre people could be, and admitted "the challenge is for us to ensure we deliver our assessments in a timely and proper manner and it should not be for the claimant to travel too far or wait too long. This is something we take very seriously".
Mr Reid said: "To speed things up, Atos Healthcare recently sent a team of health professions to travel around the Highlands and islands to carry out home consultations and this will be done on a regular basis.
"They are also now working on trials of consultations by video link; if this is a success it could be used in remote locations.
“I hope that no constituents are now having long waits for their PIP assessment, but if they are, I would like to hear about it.”