WAITING times for counselling have been improved since it was revealed hundreds of people in York and Selby were waiting many months for treatment.

In September, The Press reported that 323 people in need of high-intensity counselling for conditions including severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder had been put on a 14-month waiting list for help.

It was described as “an absolutely shocking situation for us to be in in the 21st century” by David Smith, then chief executive of the charity York Mind.

Figures have since shown that a further 670 people were waiting more than four months to be assessed for low-intensity counselling.

Now, providers Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have said improvements have been made, with 128 people with severe mental health problems currently on a ten-month waiting list for high-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Jill Copeland, chief operating officer at the Trust, said: “I'm delighted that we've been able to make some big improvements in our IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service so that more people are now able to benefit from psychological therapies. We are also looking forward to working with commissioners to make the service even better in future. “

A waiting list for people in need of low-intensity counselling has been all but cleared, with 26 people waiting for treatment.

There are 79 people waiting for a telephone assessment.

Mr Smith, now director of development at The Retreat, said: "After the well-publicised difficulties people across York and North Yorkshire have faced in accessing vital talking therapies it is reassuring to see uptake is now increasing and more people are getting access to what can be life-changing therapies.

"There is still a long way to go to ensure the full range of therapy is readily available to all who need it.

"It can be hard to appreciate the importance talking therapies play in helping many people overcome mental ill-health."

After a telephone assessment, some people are entered into computerised CBT or "guided self-help".

Others at "step two" of the IAPT service receive low-intensity CBT for people with conditions including mild to moderate depression, anxiety and panic disorders, and OCD from a "psychological wellbeing practitioner”.

“Step three” is delivered by high-intensity cognitive-behavioural therapists for people with conditions including severe depression, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other treatments can also be used.

There has been a 46 per cent rise in attendance since October.