A bi-weekly newspaper has launched a campaign calling for action to be taken to reduce the waiting times for adult autism assessments.
The Inverness Courier started its Failed by the System campaign after discovering that adults in the Highlands were waiting years to be assessed for autism due to a shortage of specialist staff.
The paper is calling on the Scottish government to increase the number of diagnosticians capable of carrying out autism assessments, to work with NHS Highland to reduce waiting times which could be up to five years, and improve the level of support given to those on the waiting list.
According to the title, there are around 80 adults currently on the Highland waiting list and the departure of two diagnosticians last year has left only one NHS Highland staff member covering the entire region.
Editor Robert Taylor said there had been a good response so far to the campaign, including from politicians, and he hoped action would be taken to improve the situation.
He said: “It was drawn to our attention that there were completely unacceptable waiting times for diagnosing adults with autism.
“We had a whole raft of people who were waiting years to be told what was wrong with them. They were just invisible to the system.
“Inverness actually has very good provision for autism sufferers but you can’t go unless you have been diagnosed.”
The newspaper reports that funding has been secured from the Scottish government for two new diagnosticians, who will start carrying out assessments once they complete their training in July.
But the pair, a consultant psychiatrist and a learning disability charge nurse, will only conduct assessments part-time alongside their other posts and it is feared they will not be able to bring waiting times down to acceptable levels.
Kabie Brook, chairwoman of the Autism Rights Group Highland, said: “We are appalled by the current diagnostic service in Highland and the stress and damage that this is causing to those on the waiting list.
“The focus now must be on creating a service that will reduce the waiting list and assess whilst not forgetting that those waiting still require support.
“Improving services for autistic people to alleviate the crisis created by a lack of assessment and diagnostic services has been a high priority for us for some time.”