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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.”

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PATIENTS with mental health conditions are waiting months for treatment, figures show.

People waited an average of 22 and a half weeks for individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in 2016/17 in the Blackburn with Darwen CCG area.

But treatment waiting times are falling, with patients waiting an average of over 48 weeks for CBT treatment in 2014/15, according to the freedom of information data obtained by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, branded the waits as appalling.

Mindsmatter offers talking therapies across the county and is the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service part of Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.

A spokesman for Lancashire Care, 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: “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.”

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PATIENTS with a mental illness are being sent thousands of miles away from home to get a bed for treatment, new research shows.

From August 2018 to July 2019, 70 mental health patients in Blackburn with Darwen were sent 3,689 miles away for treatment.

During the same time period, 95 patients across the rest of East Lancashire travelled a total of 4,815 miles to get the help the need.

The practice, known as out-of-area placements (OAPs), happens when there is no local hospital bed for the patient to be admitted to.

The government has pledged to end all inappropriate adult OAPs for acutely ill patients by 2021.

Professor Wendy Burn, Royal College of Psychiatrists president, blamed cuts in the number of mental health beds which she said had ‘gone too far’.

She said: “Patients and their families are suffering as a result.

“It’s clear that some parts of England urgently need more properly funded and staffed beds. Hundreds more are needed.

 “Trusts struggling with dangerously high levels of bed occupancy are being forced to send seriously ill people hundreds of miles away from their homes for care. That must stop.”

East Lancashire health campaigner Russ McLean described the figures as ‘disgusting’ and said that patients were having their mental illness ‘worsened’ by the long trips.

Mr McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “This is down to shortages of staff and there is a need for more funding and beds in the community.

“Beds are being taken out of the system and not getting replaced.

“So you have patients travelling out of the area, who are feeling more isolated which is worsening their mental health, and leaving families not able to see their loved ones regularly.

“It’s disgusting.”

The figures from the RCPsych come after it emerged earlier this year that two men from Blackburn had to go as as Plymouth and Southampton, hundreds of miles away, for treatment because there were no mental health beds locally.

Tanya Hibbert, head of operations for the mental health network at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, the county’s main mental health organisation, said: “We are delivering a system-wide improvement plan with all partners who contribute to the delivery of mental health care.

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MORE than 100 patients are being recalled for ultrasound scans after a safety blunder.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust bosses are getting at least 118 scans redone after they were carried out by a trainee sonographer who was not being properly supervised.

The problem with the scans, carried out by a private contractor, came to light this week after the Lancashire Telegraph was tipped off by a concerned whistleblower.

Julie Iddon, associate medical director for quality and safety at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “A recent review of work undertaken by an external company that we use to support our ultrasound services identified that a number of ultrasound scans were performed by a trainee sonographer, without the appropriate level of senior professional supervision.

This does not meet with our high imaging standards.

“Although it is very unlikely that any omissions or errors have been made, as a precaution we are in the process of recalling the patients affected for another scan with an experienced sonographer.

“We have undertaken a full investigation in order to understand exactly how this happened.

“We would like to express our sincere apologies for any inconvenience or concern caused to patients.”

The trust revealed the scans were carried out by an outsourced company under an NHS contract, and were carried out on the firm’s premises, not at an East Lancashire hospital or health centre.

However those who underwent scans are all NHS patients.

Sonography is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves, known as ultrasound, to produce images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body.

The email confirming an investigation was taking place, which was leaked to the Lancashire Telegraph, was sent out by Julie White, the clinical lead for ultrasound at the trust.

The email said: “At the end of September, it came to light that an outsourcing company used by the trust’s partner provider to support ultrasound services, has not delivered care to the standards we require.

“The trust is involved in the investigation of this serous event along with the Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS England and the Health and Care Professions Council.

“As part of the process the current review has identified at least 118 patients who need to be recalled for rescan within November.

“As you can appreciate this will involve a lot of time and additional workload as we investigate the event and we would appreciate your support at this time.”

A Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: “The CCG is aware of the investigation.

“It would not be appropriate for us to add anything.”

Cllr Damian Talbot, executive member for public health and wellbeing for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “It is worrying that this kind of mistake has happened.

“I would hope the trust will be looking to improve their precautions in making sure those doing the procedures are qualified, so this type of incident does not happen again.

“These are important scans and they need to be right.

“They need to be right so mothers and families can make the appropriate plans.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Patients Voices group, said he would speak to the chief executive of the trust about this issue.

He said: “First of all this is very disturbing.

“We are living in an age where this should not be happening.”

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