counselMore people with mental ill health are waiting for longer than 28 days to access talking therapies, new figures have revealed.

Provisional figures for the first three months of 2013 show that 116,000 people in England waited for more than 28 days – the target time between GP referral and accessing treatment – to access talking therapies, a rise of nearly 3% on the previous quarter, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The HSCIC’s statistics, part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, also revealed that waiting times still vary hugely across the country, with the fewest people waiting more than 28 days in the east of England, and the most in the northwest of the country.

Action needed

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, said these were “disappointing” results and called on the Government to take action on this.

“It’s very disappointing that thousands of people still aren’t accessing the talking treatments they need to manage their mental health in a timely way,” she said. “Early intervention is key to preventing deterioration which is why it’s so important to reduce these waiting times. Whilst it is encouraging to see that referral rates have gone up, indicating more people seeking help, the challenge now is ensuring this increased demand is being met.  

“The Government and NHS committed to parity of esteem but this is far from a reality – they need to act now to address these inequalities. It’s vital for the millions of people affected by mental health problems that further investment in mental health is prioritised within the forthcoming spending review.” 

In all, 258,143 people were referred for psychological therapies in the first three months of 2013, an increase of 2.1% on the previous quarter.

It is estimated that 6.1 million people suffer from anxiety and depression disorders in England, suggesting that the access rate of people with anxiety or depression orders to IAPT services was 2.5% in the quarter.