AS the Lancashire Telegraph health reporter, BEN BUTLER reports on all matter of issues regarding the NHS and people's battles with illness. Today, he gives his verdict on his own experience of using local mental health services.

WAITING months on end for treatment for a physical condition would be rightly considered unacceptable.

Yet that is the appalling current state of affairs when it comes to treatment for people with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

After suffering from depression and anxiety myself, I was referred by my doctor to Mindsmatter, a mental health service provided by Lancashire Care Foundation Trust.

It was in September that I was referred, but I’m not due to have my first individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) appointment until April 8, some seven months later, similar to that of Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group.

NHS figures do show that the two clinical commissioning groups (Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCGs) are generally hitting their treatment targets under the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

But the NHS treatment targets for common mental health problems are for within six weeks and 18 weeks.

Surely people struggling with their mental health, some of whom will be experiencing suicidal thoughts, should be being seen quicker than this? And of course there are people waiting longer than both these targets.

What is required is proper NHS funding of mental health services (yes above the £2.3 billion per year promised in the NHS long term plan) and a change in attitude towards mental health, so we can begin to have the parity of esteem between mental and physical health that is so clearly lacking currently and end these diabolical treatment waits.

Now that is a worthy mission of any responsible and compassionate government and society.