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Lossiemouth assessment centre closure mystery

By Jonathan Clark

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THE closure of a disability assessment centre in Lossiemouth, leaving Moray residents with a potential 100 mile round trip, has become somewhat of a mystery.

The Moray Coast Health Centre, where the DWP lend a room. Picture: Eric Cormack. Image No. 044458.
The Moray Coast Health Centre, where the DWP lend a room. Picture: Eric Cormack. Image No. 044458.

There is confusion as to why the Centre of Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA), who work for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) run by the UK governement, have decided to move away from the premises in Lossiemouth – where they rented rooms from the Moray Coast Medical Centre.

A spokesperson for the DWP confirmed the reasons for leaving were to do with "health and safety issues" but didn't comment further on what those issues were. The Moray Coast Medical Centre has denied there are problems around health and safety, adding that the facility is "state of the art".

The move means that those needing to travel to a centre will have to go to Baron Taylor's Street in Inverness – although the DWP confirmed taxis will be provided, and home visits are possible.

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead originally brought the issue to light last weekend – but it was unclear when the centre closed.

Mr Lochhead said: "I was surprised to receive an email from the company contracted by the DWP to carry out disability assessments (CHDA) confirming that the assessment centre in Lossiemouth is no longer used.

"This strikes me as a ridiculous decision that has been taken hundreds of miles away in London with no idea of what it will mean for people in our local communities. Some of the most vulnerable people in Moray will now face a round trip of 100 miles to be assessed."

The Northern Scot can confirm the last booking by the CHDA at the centre was on April 5 – but a spokesperson for the centre also told the paper they weren't informed their premises were no longer being used. According to the Conservatives, a DWP inspection on April 29 highlighted an issue with exits and safety.

Moray MP Douglas Ross said: "After a routine health and safety check at the premises it was identified that there was no emergency escape route should there be an incident at this facility and therefore the decision was taken to temporarily close it until suitable alternative premises could be sourced."

A spokesperson for the Medical Centre, which was built in 2009 and sees 1500 bookings per week, rubbished the escape route claim and added: "All rooms are fitted with panic alarms and the one occasion there was a problem with a DWP patient, years ago, we all responded to the panic alarm to assist.

"If there was a problem with health and safety then the medical centre would be shut down. The problem can only be room availability."

The Centre was seeing a couple of people per month for disability assessments, with the spokesperson confirming two people were seen in March and one on April 5.

These people are now the ones worst effected by this mystery, with one complaining of having to travel to Inverness in a taxi when her disability is a bowel condition.

CHDA were pressed for a comment on why the move happened, but only confirmed they were looking for a new place.

A spokesperson said: "We are working closely with DWP to find an alternative assessment centre in the local area. During this time, we are offering local customers either home visits or paid taxis to the nearest centre in Inverness. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

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