A HEALTH campaigner – who has himself been battling depression – has spoken out about the waiting times for counselling.
Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group referred himself to the Mindsmatter mental health service in August last year.
But he was not offered a counselling session until this week and has been waiting so long that he says he is starting to feel better again.
Mr McLean, who has battled depression and anxiety since he was a teenager and described the waits as a sorry state of affairs, said: “My first counselling session was due to be this week but I’ve decided to cancel it as I feel like I can manage enough not to need it.
“I’m feeling better again after months of taking anti-depressants and due to how long I’ve had to wait, I’ve had time to recover.
“After I referred myself in August, I had an initial assessment and I was then sent a letter asking me to attend a meeting at Blackburn Library.
“So I attended this in September and it was to discuss my options for mental health treatment.
“But I didn’t find it useful as it’s a slideshow presentation and we’re given choices such as attending group sessions with other depression and anxiety sufferers.
“Watching slideshows and sitting in a room full of other depression and anxiety sufferers is not what you want when you’re struggling.”
READ MORE: Lancashire Telegraph reporter Ben Butler talks about his battle with depression.
Mr McLean has spoken out as the most recent NHS figures for the second quarter of 2018/19 show the clinical commissioning groups in the area are generally hitting their targets under the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.
In total, 99 per cent of adults with common mental health problems received their first treatment appointment within 18 weeks of referral under the IAPT programme at Blackburn with Darwen CCG.
While in East Lancashire CCG area the figure was also 99 per cent.
This comes as calls have been made to reduce mental health treatment waiting times.
Mr McLean, who had to step down temporarily as chairman of the patients’ group because of his own mental health struggle and the suicidal thoughts he had experienced, added: “The current waiting times are shambolic and this is a sorry state of affairs.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, the provider of the Mindsmatter service, said it is working hard to ensure that people needing access to psychological therapy are seen as quickly as possible.
The spokesman said: “Whilst we cannot go into detail about the specific details of a person’s care and treatment, we offer our assurance that providing high quality is our number one priority and we welcome the opportunity to speak to people directly through our hearing feedback team to fully understand and explore any issues they have experienced so that they can be resolved.
“To enable this to happen, we have a plan in place to ensure these waiting times are reduced.
“This includes recruitment of staff and providing alternatives to face-to-face therapy such as our online therapy sessions and group therapy courses that have short waiting times. We are also implementing a service redesign to help improve access to the treatment people need.”