Thousands of elderly people are missing out on free personal care because of delays to assessments and care arrangements, a charity has found.
Age Scotland says official figures suggest that, each year, around 8,640 people in Scotland wait longer than six weeks for a care assessment.
Its own research, compiled using freedom of information requests, found significant variations across councils in the time taken to carry out assessments.
The average "worst case scenario" is between two weeks and five months, with the longest delay of 575 days - 18 months - recorded in 2014/15.
Under national guidelines, people should wait no longer than six weeks for care services to be provided after an assessment has taken place.
Age Scotland found that around 10% of people were not provided with services within the six-week limit over the past three years.
The charity said its research suggests that around 3,000 elderly people each year wait longer than six weeks for services to be put in place.
Most councils do not record the reasons why delays occur, but many cited instances where delays are caused by the person being admitted to hospital or waiting for a place in their chosen care home.
Staff shortages, financial constraints and delays in adapting homes were also cited.
Age Scotland received freedom of information responses from 25 out of 32 councils.
Chief executive Keith Robson said: "These are deeply concerning figures showing thousands of older people facing delays in the care provision they need being put in place.
"It also means payments for free personal care they are entitled to not being received.
"This confirms the experiences of a number of older people and their families who have been in touch with Age Scotland's helpline to tell us their experiences of delays in the system.
"As we look to local authority elections next month Age Scotland has contacted council candidates across Scotland to ask them to ensure providing high quality health and social care services is made an urgent priority by new administrations."
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