"Agoraphobia turned Forum Founder"

About: Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health

(as a service user),

My husband suffers from Agoraphobia. He has been housebound now for over two years. It all started after a panic attack at work, the only place he felt safe was home and so after the attack he stayed there and remains housebound. Of course with being housebound comes depression and anxiety. He is on medication but its the therapy that he needs more. We was advised that CBT was the best thing but he was not able to attend the classes obviously because he has agoraphobia, something the mental health team did not understand. They said unless he went to them they could not give him CBT. What they didn't understand was if he could attend the classes he wouldn't need the therapy as he would be cured. We have since found a excellent charity who listened to my husband's problems and within two weeks of our first contact with them he was receiving telephone CBT. We couldn't believe our luck. How is it that a charity who received little money can offer such service but the NHS cannot? The therapy is going well, it will take time but at least we are on the right road now. The road to recovery hopefully. We have recently been reflecting on our previous lives when we were very sociable and went on holidays every year and realised we would not fit into our old circle of friends and doubt they would ever understand. We decided to start a forum for people who find themselves housebound at time for days, weeks, months or longer and was overwhelmed by the response. We was originally going to cover just mental health but realised there was so many other conditions such as MS, ME, CFS, Arthritis, Epilepsy and more that render people housebound at times. We are now building a new communit y which we fit into. Through our own personal experience we can now go on and help others. This has given my husband so much motivation as he is helping others and I am so proud of his achievements. The NHS have recently approved the forum for their web pages and we are on the NHS Carers Direct Directory, a major organisation also supports what we are doing which is overwhelming. We can now look forward with a positive attitude. Our forum is at Housebound Forums
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Response from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

It is very welcome to hear that the husband of the lady who posted this mail is on the road to recovery. Agoraphobia is a condition which can limit people's lives, experiences and hopes to a considerable degree and more so the more chronic it becomes.

It is sad the NHS Team appeared not to have understood the severity of this gentleman's disability. Many people suffer with agoraphobic difficulties but are still able to go out of the house, sometimes with the use of medication, more often with the support of a partner, friend or support worker. However in this instance treatment should have been offered on a home-visit basis.

Such input is available in Lancashire where extra investment has led to increased access to psychological therapies as part of the IAPT programme. Therapy may be directly provided by a CBT practitioner or in part by a Personal Wellbeing Practitioner under the supervision of an experienced therapist. Additionally local services are looking at the range of free to use online CBT programmes, which can be of considerable benefit to those people comfortable with computer use.

The lady expresses surprise that a small charity is able to respond when the NHS seemed not to be able to do so in any productive manner. It is true however that sometimes small focussed charities can respond more flexibly to local need with spare capacity.

Our local IAPT services in East Lancashire receive about 1000 referrals a month. We need to utilise our resources in the most cost effective manner. This can include centralising clinic provision to minimise time lost to travelling. That should not mean however that a full assessment of a person's needs including their mobility is overlooked.