COUNSELLING is to be axed on the NHS in favour of a radical new approach – leading mental health managers and a senior doctor to warn some will be denied vital help.

Health bosses have cancelled a contract for a charity and private firm to provide counselling in favour of a new-approach NHS-run service.

The NHS “Healthy Minds” scheme uses “talking therapies” such as cognitive behavioural therapy for people with anxiety or depression at GP surgeries and on the telephone.

Bosses say counselling is not effective enough – and more people would be helped and waiting times would fall when changes take place from April 1.

Yet the axed providers and a GP leader said this will not help people who have suffered from major “life events” such as bereavement and marriage breakdown.

Paul Henry, operations director of Primary Care Counsellors and Psychotherapists Ltd (PCCP), said: “Cognitive behavioural therapy is a technique that is designed more for clinical depression.

“People who have life-event driven depression and anxiety are going to miss out. There will no longer be provision for them.”

The not-for-profit firm has counsellors in GP surgeries – and Mr Henry said the new service will not have this permanent base, cutting vital relationships with GPs.

Blaming spiralling PCT finances on the change, he said: “What we need is a doubling of the amount of primary care mental health support.”

And sessions by charity Mind from premises in Desborough Road, High Wycombe will also stop, its bosses said this week.

Sessions are provided by volunteers but need a manager, whose job will be lost when funding goes.

In a letter to the PCT, Buckinghamshire Mind chief executive Carolyn Smyth said: “We strongly believe that withdrawing access to non-CBT based counselling will have serious repercussions and will remove a vital resource for those needing the type of psychological support that cannot be provided by CBT.”

The new approach would not suit a “broad range” of conditions, she said, and it was “short sighted” to only fund this and not counselling as well.

Their concerns by were backed by Dr Paul Roblin, chairman of the Buckinghamshire Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs.

He said: “This will leave a big gap in services. Many people are concerned about this – the two types of services deal with different issues.”

But the PCT said while Wycombe had the PCCP, services were patchy in South Bucks and Chiltern districts and the new service would cover the county. It presently covers about half.

Its lead GP, Dr Geoff Payne, said there is “no clinical evidence of clear benefit” from counselling and the new service offered “coping strategies” to improve lives.

He said: “We are offering a better service, a consistent service which is known to benefit patients.”

Waiting times will fall he said and insisted cash is “not a prime driver”. The PCT was the most overspent in England last year and is in debt again this year.

The change was revealed at a meeting of the PCT board when raised by a member of the public, Bill Russell.

Chief executive Ed Macalister-Smith said the public were not consulted as it was “arguable” whether it was a “significant change”, a move that would require public consultation.

But an angry Mr Russell said: “The public would consider it to be a significant change.”

The Healthy Minds service can be contacted on 0844 225 2400. For more information click the links below.