A health board has apologised to a couple who were not given the chance to hold their newly born baby boy before he died in a hospital.

NHS Highland's chief executive has made a per-sonal and unreserved apology for failing to provide the required standards of care.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin has now investigated and upheld most of the complaints raised by the couple who have not been identified, but referred to as Mr and Mrs C.

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On December 7 2010, when 18 weeks pregnant, Mrs C underwent an amniocentesis test for possible abnormalities in the baby.

The procedure was carried out by an obstetrician at Caithness General Hospital in Wick. The baby was found to have an abdominal wall defect but Mr and Mrs C were not told of this at the time.

On December 20, Mrs C's waters broke. She contacted Caithness General Hospital and was advised to go to her local health centre, where she was examined and sent home.

The next day she started bleeding and contacted Caithness General but was advised to wait at home due to adverse weather.

On December 22, 2010, she and her husband went to the hospital where they were told their baby had an abdominal wall defect.

The next day she suffered severe pains and was taken by ambulance to hospital, where she was advised she was likely to miscarry.

Mrs C was transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness more than 100 miles away, where she went into labour and delivered her baby prematurely on January 5.

Mr Martin found the hospital staff had unreasonably failed to follow Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Guidelines when carrying out Mrs C's amniocentesis procedure and failed to tell the couple about an abdominal wall defect which was detected at this time.

He also found an unreasonable failure to inform them their baby was born with a beating heart and they were not given the opportunity to hold him.

NHS Highland chief executive Elaine Mead said: "I offer my personal and unreserved apology and sincere condolences to the family for failing to provide the standards of care they required and the devastating impact this had on their lives.

"I will continue to lead and support colleagues to ensure, as far as possible, that something like this can not happen again."