CUTS to the operating hours of a York mental health support helpline have been branded "disgusting" by a regular user.

Joy Warhust, 69, says the helpline has saved her life on many occasions and a decision by City of York Council to reduce its hours will have a detrimental impact on her and many others who rely on the service.

In December, the council sent a letter to Ms Warhust confirming that from January 2 this year the helpline opening hours, which had previously run 24-hours a day, would be cut to 2pm-10pm.

Ms Warhust, of Chaloners Road, York, said that people suffering from mental health issues need the service at different points throughout the day.

She said: “The morning is the time that I most need the service.

“In the past it has helped save my life.

“It is an invaluable service that helps me at the start of the day. Whilst I need it in the morning, several other of my friends require it more over night, which they also can no longer use.

“I often sleep in the afternoon and now the service is so busy when I wake up I don’t get to speak to anyone if I need help.

“This disgusting decision is purely appealing to the masses and not individual issues.”

In the letter to Mrs Warhust, the council said that "statistically, the demand for the services had always been highest during the evening hours".

Michael Melvin, assistant director of adult social care at City of York Council, said: “Since York’s mental health support line was set up, many other support options for people with mental health issues have been created, including TEWV’s (Tees Esk Wear Valleys NHS Trust) 24 hour mental health crisis service. As a result, the vast majority of calls to our service now occur in the afternoon and early evening.

“The new service times ensure we can focus our resources at these times when our customers need them most. We signpost customers to other services which may better suit them.

“Recognising that any change can be unsettling, we wrote to our most regular and recent callers explaining the proposals, discussed any concerns and offered to meet with the handful of customers who came back to us.”

Ms Warhust added that the helpline had advised that she could use alternative helplines such as the Samaritans.

She said: “I have used this helpline for many years. They understand my history and I have told them vital information in the past which has built up trust.

“The other services are not local and when I speak to them it is like I am starting all over again.”

Alyson Scott, chief executive officer of York Mind, said many people suffering from mental health issues often struggle most on a morning.

She said: “The drop-in services in York often begin in the morning as after speaking to frequent users, they often need help on a morning.”

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said he had contacted the council, pushing them to review the decision.

He said:“It is so important that people across York are able to access the mental health support line 24-hours a day. People often need instant support when they are in a particularly vulnerable state and therefore it is vital that they are able to access the mental health line at any hour, day or night.

“I have already contacted the council on this matter and will be pushing for them to review their decision to reduce this critical service which provides support and advice to local people in their most difficult moments.”

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, said: "I share the concern that there is insufficient provision of mental health services in York. The withdrawal of a vital service in the city has caused detriment to those who require the service, and constituents have raised this with me, highlighting that the cover provided does not replace the service.

"I urge City of York Council to review its decision and to work with the Clinical Commissioning Group and mental health trust, TEWV, to ensure that vital mental health phone services are there to support those in need."