The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust will close the Hydrotherapy Pool at the Royal Berkshire Hospital with effect from 31 March 2017. It has advised service users and local GPs.
The current financial climate demands that all NHS acute services be linked to a clearly definable clinical strategy and outcome, be cost effective either with appropriate funding from commissioners or self-supporting income, and be an appropriate service for secondary care. With this in mind, the Trust took the difficult decision to withdraw the service.
Hydrotherapy benefits only a very small percentage of patients requiring physiotherapy (<5%), and, with only 400 patients referred to Hydrotherapy (just 44 by GPs) it is not, nor is it likely to be, a cost-effective therapy. The cost of running the service, with up to three therapists to one patient ratios, makes it very costly - with very little proven benefit to patients. No acute hospital in-patients are treated in the pool.
Head of Therapies at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Jill Gillespie-Shahabi, said: “We know that this service is enjoyed by a small number of users, but equally, we have to make difficult decisions that demonstrate the best use of NHS facilities and money.
“Hydrotherapy suite maintenance costs are high, with higher annual running costs than income. On top of that, the facility needs to be closed and £50,000 worth of investment made, just to keep the pool operative.
“To keep the facility up and running, we would have to take the funds out of front line acute services, or cut other planned capital works and so, the decision to close the pool was made.
“No staff will lose their post following the service closure but will be freed up to return to working with acute patients on the wards.”
Whilst no decision has been taken on a possible future use of the space, the Hydrotherapy suite occupies a prime acute footprint that would allow us to provide improved facilities for other, high demand acute services used by a greater number of our patients.