Latest national figures have shown wide variation in the length of time patients diagnosed with anxiety or depression wait for therapy.

A report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) found that just 3 per cent of patients referred to psychological therapy in one area - NHS Eastern Cheshire - received their first treatment within the government target of 28 days last year.

By contrast, 96 per cent of patients covered by NHS Barking and Dagenham were treated on time.

Of the 709,000 referrals entering psychological therapy in 2013-14, six in 10 (61 per cent) had their first appointment within 28 days of referral, the HSCIC found.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “These latest annual statistics echo our own investigation … showing huge variation in access to talking therapies depending on where a person lives.

“Far too many people face unacceptably long waits or are struggling to even get a referral, which just isn’t good enough.

“While waiting, many become more unwell and one in six people attempt to take their own lives.”

According to the figures, there were just over one million referrals into Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services in 2013-14, for 950,000 individual patients, two-thirds of whom were women.