A MOTHER has spoken of her heartache at having to endure a four-year wait to have her adult son diagnosed by specialists at the city’s troubled New Craigs Hospital.
She learned this week that the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) had backed her complaint of neglect and ordered NHS Highland to apologise to the family.
The woman, who does not wish to be identified, was told there was an "unreasonable delay" in diagnosing Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
She said: "They’ve failed him in every way in the last four years.
"It’s taken me a long time to get to this stage. Supporting my son has been a full-time job because the NHS close every single door and they back each other.
"I’m one of the lucky ones. My son’s still here. There were times when he was threatening suicide.
"I want this story to be public knowledge."
The investigation is the latest embarrassment for the psychiatric hospital which this week admitted it was failing to retain staff, leaving it no option but to reduce its quota of beds for the second time in four months.
Complaints about treatment at the hospital have long featured in the health board’s in-tray and postbags of past and present Highland politicians. Demands for Scottish Government intervention have been ramped up in the wake of the latest bed losses.
Responding to the staffing crisis, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "In January, we announced an 11 per cent increase in training places for mental health nurses and we fund the Open University to deliver a pre-registration programme for almost 80 nursing students including for mental health, particularly in remote and rural areas.
"We’re also undertaking a marketing campaign to encourage recruitment into health and social care careers.
"We’ll support the board to continue their efforts to recruit to these posts and we note that the reduction at New Craigs Hospital is a temporary measure to preserve patient safety."
Michael Perera, general manager for Highland mental health services, admitted mental health staff within the Inner Moray Firth had been "under pressure" for almost 18 months.
With daily gaps in the rota, he said the loss of six more beds was to "ensure a safe and effective service".
He added: "Our efforts to recruit have been unsuccessful in attracting enough staff. In addition, nine of our current establishment of trained mental health nurses have indicated plans to retire this year."
A NHS Highland spokeswoman said: We will be apologising to the patient for the distress caused to them and their family. We have also outlined to them the work put in place in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations."
There has been some respite with occasional specialist cover, but the hospital has resorted to seeking general nursing staff to help out. And recently retired mental health nurses have being approached to see if they can take up part-time roles.