Frustrated parents calling for a new system to diagnose children with autism staged a protest at Raigmore Hospital yesterday.
The demonstrators are calling for a shorter timescale for the condition to be recognised, with some parents waiting for years for their concerns to be realised by medical experts.
The peaceful protest was organised by Sylvia Mackenzie of Inverness who battled for 10 years to have her son Kobe diagnosed and is now going through a similar process with her grandson Kayson, who has been waiting for an assessment for nearly two years.
NHS Highland chief executive Elaine Mead spoke with the campaigners outside the hospital and has agreed to meet with Mrs Mackenzie next month.
A spokeswoman for the health board said that the campaigners are “understandably frustrated” and said they are looking at ways to improve the system.
Mrs Mackenzie, 48, said that it was “disappointing” that it had come to holding a demonstration to “get our voices heard.
She said: “We’re just frustrated because it is not a fair system and it has affected so many families.
“The other thing that is worth saying is that we wouldn’t know what we know without coming together as a group.”
Mrs Mackenzie has previously received an apology from NHS Highland after a ruling by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in relation to Kobe’s condition.
North Kessock mum Donna Brown, 42, also took part in the demonstration yesterday.
She has been waiting for nearly a year and a half for a diagnosis for her son Reece, 3, who she believes shows signs of autism.
She said: “You really don’t know how bad it is until you’re involved in the system.
“It’s our children who are being failed.”
A health board spokeswoman said: “NHS Highland is aware of parental concerns over the provision of assessment, diagnosis and support services for children and young people with autism.
“Discussions have taken place over the last few months around how to increase capacity in autism assessments. Children and parents do have to wait a long time if they are in need of specialist assessment and are understandably frustrated and angry about this.
“NHS Highland is looking at ways in which services can work together to deliver a better assessment service for autism.
“We also plan to increase our psychology capacity in our child and adolescent mental health service for children with autism spectrum disorders.”