A government pledge to make 'talking therapies' more available is being jeopardised by higher education funding cuts, training providers have claimed.

The Department of Health has said it wants to boost access to counselling and psychotherapy to benefit 900,000 more people over the next three years.

Plans include recruiting 3,600 more therapists.

But organisations that offer therapy courses say this will be hard to fulfil after a decision to withdraw some higher education funding.

The warning comes after the Liberal Democrats obtained trust figures revealing some patients wait more than three years for psychotherapy.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills' decision to withdraw funding for second degrees will have a "dire" impact as people who embark on training tend to be postgraduates, say providers.

The Institute of Family Therapy said more than two thirds of people on its courses, run jointly with Birkbeck College in London, already have higher or equivalent qualifications.

Funding for the Relate Institute, which trains 350 students a year in counselling for couples and families, will be cut by£500,000 and mean increased fees.

Tavistock and Portman foundation trust dean of postgraduate studies Trudy Klauber said nearly half its 2,000 students would lose funding.

"Within the NHS we're training people at post-registration and post-graduate level and they very often already have a postgraduate certificate or postgraduate diploma," she said.

Training organisations have said fee hikes will hit diversity by limiting who can afford training.

Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb said it would be wrong to suggest there was a crisis. But he added he would be "disappointed" to find the DH and DIUS "had not been talking to each other".

He said organisations such as Relate helped many people deal with stress and anxiety and stopped them becoming NHS patients.

Paul Corry, director of public affairs at mental health charity Rethink, said the funding cuts were "worrying" as long waiting times for psychological therapies were partly due to a lack of practitioners.

"We need to encourage more people to take up training to fill this gap," he said.

He also highlighted a lack of qualified practitioners and called for incentives to train to boost standards.

The DIUS holds that adults without a first degree should be a priority for higher education funding.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England will be monitoring demand for different subjects. But the DH will not be "rushing into making special arrangements for specific subjects", said higher education minister Bill Rammell.