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Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many men and how many women, respectively, in the United Kingdom he estimates suffer from agoraphobia; and how many agoraphobia sufferers he estimates have received general practitioner and hospital treatment therefor, respectively, in each of the past five years for which records are available.

Precise evidence is not available on which to base such estimates, as health service statistics do not identify agoraphobia separately. A recent research study found that about 3 per cent. of all people consulting a clinician about psychological problems suffered from a phobia as a main complaint.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what research has been and is being carried out into the cause, diagnosis and cure of agoraphobia; whether he will set up or provide funds for the setting up of special research projects into agoraphobia; and whether he will set up or encourage the setting up of clinics for the treatment of agoraphobia and kindred illnesses.

My Department has not funded and is not currently supporting research into specific problems of agoraphobia, but we are able and prepared to consider proposals for research related to the provision of services for psychiatric disorders, including phobias, within the Department's research programme.I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the Medical Research Council has no research grants specific to agoraphobia, but two of its programme grants, with a total value in 1977–78 of £97.000, include studies on phobia. These are:

Institute of Psychiatry (Dr. I. Marks and Dr. S. Rachman) Therapeutic studies of resistant neuroses.
University of Oxford (Professor M. Gelder), Psychological treatment of psychoneuroses.

Other relevant work is being carried out at universities and hospital medical schools, but details are not available.

Facilities for treatment of agoraphobia are available under the National Health Service, and in recent years considerable progress has been made in a number of centres in this country in developing treatments for phobic conditions. Special facilities for people suffering from agoraphobia separate from the general psychiatric services are not thought to be required.