An Inverness mother believes she has finally made a breakthrough in her campaign for a better system to diagnose children with autism in the Highlands.
Sylvia Mackenzie, of Culloden, attended four meetings in the past month with NHS Highland board chief executive Elaine Mead and key staff to work through existing problems contributing to lengthy waiting times.
Figures show that, for the most recent 15 children to be assessed, the average waiting time from referral to diagnosis or discharge was 760 days.
But Mrs Mackenzie says she is “confident” that Ms Mead will ask department heads to aim to cut this down to six months by implementing several practical changes.
These include combining appointments with speech and language therapists and pediatricians, and ensuring there will only be one referral “path” instead of having to be seen by more than one professional.
Yesterday Mrs Mackenzie said: “What we’ve said is that six months is not an unreasonable time to be asked for. We should not have to wait any longer because the child ends up suffering through education and through socialising, and home life is often in turmoil as some people have to come off work and it’s a loss of a wage.
“After being involved in these meetings, I am now at rest. It’s not an easy fix but I am excited about what lies ahead.
“If I did not go in the room and tell them my story and how we can make this better, we would not be this far ahead. I am delighted we have got this far.”
Mrs Mackenzie battled with the authorities for 10 years to have her son Kobe diagnosed with autism.
She claimed she was regularly told by health and education professionals that the problem was down to her parenting rather than her son’s condition.
But an independent psychologist’s assessment concluded that NHS Highland has failed to conduct appropriate assessments and, in 2013, medics at Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow eventually diagnosed her son.
In August last year, Mrs Mackenzie was joined by other parents to share their personal experiences of the current system with Mrs Mead.
A Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) for children and young people with neuro-developmental needs has been scheduled for all of next week, when plans will be finalised.
An NHS Highland spokesman said: “From the feedback Mrs Mackenzie has given us, it is clear that more work is required. NHS Highland will work closely with health colleagues at Raigmore and Care and Learning and with educational psychology to ensure lessons are learned to improve diagnostic and assessment times.”