NHS hydrotherapy services to resume in January

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

Hydrotherapy pool services are due to resume in Bedford from next year, after stopping during the Covid pandemic, a meeting heard.

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.

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

The decision to temporarily suspend the hydrotherapy service was taken by Bedford Hospital executive team, said a Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) report at that time.

“Patients and other users were having their treatment cancelled, often with no notice,” explained the report. “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.

“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 has resulted in excess chlorine levels and unsuitable pH (acid/alkaline) levels.”

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

“I received a briefing from the BLMK integrated care board (ICB) about hydrotherapy services in Bedfordshire,” she said.

“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.

“Hydrotherapy will be considered as part of the wider re-procurement of musculoskeletal services for BLMK,” added councillor Holland-Lindsay, who chairs the committee.

“This is planned for next year and we’ll discuss that whole piece of work here.”

A temporary service began at Anjulita Court for NHS patients deemed suitable for hydrotherapy by the Bedford Hospital physiotherapy team. Both Anjulita Court and the Therapy Centre in Bedford meet the required service standards.

Alternative sites avoid capital funding pressures and improve access to the hydrotherapy service, said the CCG 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

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