Continuing delays to hydrotherapy treatment in Bedfordshire

Bedford Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool
Bedford Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool has been closed since December 2019

Talks are continuing between a health authority and potential partners to provide hydrotherapy pool services in Bedfordshire.

Patients with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, neurological disorders and musculoskeletal conditions can benefit from pool exercises as part of their treatment programme.

Although this was halted during the pandemic, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care board (ICB) intended the provision to resume at Anjulita Court in Bedford.

Read: NHS hydrotherapy services to resume in January

But a resident who contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service having been referred for hydrotherapy pool treatment was left in limbo, as the facility has yet to be replaced.

Both Anjulita Court and the Therapy Centre in Bedford meet the required standards for a temporary service.

A BLMK ICB spokesman said: “We’ve been talking to potential providers of a hydrotherapy service in our area.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to provide this at Anjulita Court in Bedford as we’d hoped. But we remain in discussion with other potential partners.”

The pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House in Bedford was closed for 27 days in 2018 because of repeated faults and maintenance issues. Hydrotherapy services for the county were to be shared around other pool facilities.

An update was provided to Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee in September by Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade South councillor Emma Holland-Lindsay.

“This has been a matter of interest for a number of years to the committee, since the hydrotherapy pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House was closed and the service was moved to a different site.

“Those services were then suspended because of the Covid pandemic. But the ICB had advised these are due to start again at the Anjulita Court site in January, which was used previously.”

A decision to temporarily suspend the hydrotherapy service was taken by Bedford Hospital executive team because patients and other users were having their treatment cancelled, often with no notice, according to a Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) report at that time.

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

“The water is at a higher temperature than conventional swimming pools and needs to operate 24/7 all year around to heat the hydrotherapy pool.

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

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 then-chief operating officer Mike Thompson said: “We took into account the cost and the availability of capital investment. Our focus was on continuation and getting the hydrotherapy service reinstated, rather than risk it not being provided at all.”

Hydrotherapy was only offered to patients accessing Bedford Hospital, who live in Bedford borough or in Central Bedfordshire.

by Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter