Since its closure in 2019, Bedford’s hydrotherapy pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House has been much missed by the patients that relied on it.
Deemed uneconomical to repair in 2019, hydrotherapy services were outsourced to Anjulita Court in 2020 – a move immediately scuppered by the global pandemic, which saw the service suspended.
Currently, anyone needing treatment is offered a land-based alternative or faces paying for private hydrotherapy sessions.
And although there is an opportunity to re-open the Anjulita Court facility for NHS patients, it will take six months to train physiotherapists to update their skills.
“In my opinion, the closing of the Bedford Hospital hydrotherapy pool at North Wing was a great loss to the community of Bedford and surrounding area,” said Andrew Kettle, who regularly received hydrotherapy treatment at Gilbert Hitchcock House.
“I do understand that there was a great financial cost to reopen the pool that had been shut down due to maintenance issues and a new boiler being required, but there was a patient focus group who offered a more viable financial solution, but this was not taken into consideration during the consultation process.
“At the patient focus group, there were people there who were using the pool weekly in small groups to keep their mobility and they were more than happy to pay a small amount for this to continue. There was a strong case that the pool could actually make an income, but the health Authority seems to have made its mind up even before the focus group had taken place.
“I understand that the building at North Wing is going to be used as a new health hub for early diagnosis of cancer and other illnesses which is important, but we do need to have provision in Bedford for hydrotherapy for patients who require it.”
Andrew told the Bedford Independent that there is one private company in the Bedford area that can offer hydrotherapy, but that this is price-prohibitive for many patients.
“As an NHS patient, I have received hydrotherapy on several occasions as I have had 60 operations since the age of two,” said Andrew.
“Every time I have had hydrotherapy I’ve seen a good improvement in my mobility, when I have only had land-based physio, the results seem to take longer and are not as successful.
“I’m just recovering from my last operation and the thought of having to pay nearly £500 to have a course of hydrotherapy is just way beyond my means and I’m sure I’m not the only patient in this situation.
“Our local MP has been excellent in trying to get to the bottom of the situation and looking for a solution.”
Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston said that he had been communicating with the Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board about the return of services to Bedford.
“I am pleased that it is the intention for hydrotherapy services to resume at Anjulita Court in around six months. I know that for many patients the alternative of land-based physiotherapy – whilst better than no treatment – has not been ideal.
“However, it is important that the hydrotherapy service is both safe and effective which is why this period will be needed for training and recruitment. I will continue to monitor this matter closely.”
A Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board spokesperson said: “The hydrotherapy service provided at Anjulita Court was paused in March 2020 in line with national guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are working with partners to explore options to resume a hydrotherapy service that meets NHS specifications and will keep local people updated.”