A councillor is calling for more support for people suffering from agoraphobia after fearing the crippling condition could prevent him attending vital hospital appointments.
Coun Mark Bamforth has suffered from the illness, which is a fear of being in public places, since his teens but for many years was able to keep it under control.
But now the Fylde councillor is also suffering from a hernia which requires him to attend appointments at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
He asked Lancashire Care Trust if he could be accompanied to the hospital by a mental health support worker but his request was refused.
Coun Bamforth said: “My friends or my son have offered to go with me, but if you have a panic attack you need someone who is trained.
“In 2013, when I had to have two scans on my hernia, a mental health worker was able to accompany me, but this time I have been told that is not possible.
“But going to the hospital is a real ordeal. I couldn’t even go and see my mother when she was dying in hospital because of the agoraphobia, even though I had cared for her for many years at home.
“I have suffered from agoraphobia since I was 15 and I was fine for 20 years but in 1998 it came back, and I don’t know why.
“A hernia can kill you, so it is important I attend my appointments but all I want is for someone to accompany me.”
Coun Bamforth, of Warton Street, Lytham, and who formerly ran Warton Street Post Office, admits the condition makes it difficult for him to attend many council meetings.
He added: “I have thought about standing down but I do a lot of work from home, using email etc and I held down a job because I worked from home.”
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said it preferred to hold a number of sessions with people suffering from agoraphobia, rather than just attending a single event which could reinforce the difficulty of facing such a situation.
Phil Gooden, Mindsmatter service manager at Lancashire Care said: “Our Mindsmatter service uses a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach to support people with symptoms of agoraphobia which helps them address and manage the anxiety-provoking situations in a different way.
“This is often referred to as ‘in vivo’ work which involves a therapist attending the feared situation or place with the person.
“The session will be arranged so the person can challenge the negative beliefs that will be maintaining his or her anxiety levels and causing them to avoid these situations.
“This work is done in a structured way and often after a number of sessions in a clinic room on a one-to-one basis.
“To just take someone where they are fearful would not be therapeutic as it is likely to confirm the person’s belief that they can only attend certain situations if they have someone there with them.
“As such, the goals of therapy are to help the person develop their own skills so they can support themselves to attend these anxiety-provoking situations on their own.”