Bedford hydrotherapy pool latest: Too costly to reopen says CCG report

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Bedford Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool
Bedford Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool has been closed since December.

Hydrotherapy services for Bedfordshire are to be shared around other pool facilities after a series of problems at the current site, says a report to Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

The pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House was closed for 27 days last year because of repeated faults and maintenance issues, leaving patients’ treatment cancelled, often with no notice, said the report.

The decision to temporarily suspend the hydrotherapy service was taken by Bedford Hospital executive team in November.

“The boiler plant supporting the hydrotherapy pool needs significant investment to modernise it and to isolate it from the main heating and hot water infrastructure in the building,” explained the report.

“The heating in the whole of Gilbert Hitchcock House is required to operate 24/7 all year around to heat the hydrotherapy pool.

“The water is at a higher temperature than conventional swimming pools.

“Balancing the water quality has proved difficult, which has resulted in excess chlorine levels and unsuitable pH (acid/alkaline) levels.”

A temporary service is underway at Anjulita Court for NHS patients who are deemed suitable for hydrotherapy by the Bedford Hospital physiotherapy team.

According to the report, both Anjulita Court and the Therapy Centre in Bedford meet the required service standards and alternative sites avoid capital funding pressures and improve access to the hydrotherapy service.

A five-week consultation process involved patient users, service clinicians and professional groups.

Three options were put forward:

  • refurbish the hydrotherapy pool and reopen it at Gilbert Hitchcock House
  • close the pool at that site offering alternative therapies only
  • or provide hydrotherapy services at local facilities on a sessional basis

The CCG’s chief operating officer Mike Thompson said, “We recognise the majority of the feedback would have preferred the refurbishment option.

“But we took into account the cost and the availability of capital investment to do so.

“Our focus was on continuation and getting the hydrotherapy service reinstated, rather than risk it not being provided at all.

“It’s important those alternative pools meet quality standards, which the pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House had not been meeting, and that will be monitored.

“There is the potential for the redevelopment of that site into a primary care hub, with the possibility for the pool to be refurbished,” he added.

“I don’t want to say it’s a certainty because it’s subject to NHS business cases and there are long processes around doing that. I don’t want to give false hope.”

Bedfordshire CCG has been working with Bedford Hospital, primary care stakeholders, the local authority and external advisors to consider the suitability of the Gilbert Hitchcock site as a primary care hub.

Hydrotherapy is currently only offered to patients accessing Bedford Hospital, who live in Bedford Borough or Central Bedfordshire.

Hydrotherapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, neurological disorders and musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.

The CCG agreed option three in the report, which will be presented to the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust board on Wednesday (2 October).

By Local Democracy Reporter Euan Duncan
with additional words by the Bedford Independent


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