Martin Salter - working hard for Reading West

RBH Hydrotherapy Pool - Charities publish ‘devastating dossier’ against closure

Report shows that dogs get a better deal in Berkshire than humans and that RBH has empty buildings next door to the pool they want to close because they ‘need the space’

Royal Berkshire Hospital has been accused of a ‘crass mismanagement of public facilities’, a failure to consult and follow ‘due process’ and of issuing deliberately misleading statements in a dossier produced by a coalition of patients groups and charities that have come together to oppose plans to close the hospital’s hydrotherapy pool which only opened in 2005.

The dossier (which can be downloaded here) is titled ‘Why the RBH should keep the hydrotherapy pool open - the case against closure‘ and states:

The RBH management claim they want to use the space taken up by the hydrotherapy pool for some other, as yet undefined purpose. Yet there is a far larger empty building - the old wheelchair clinic, podiatry and former outpatients unit - situated directly opposite the relatively new hydrotherapy pool. Why is an important clinical service being sacrificed on grounds of ’space’ when other buildings have been left empty for several years? This is a crass mismanagement of public facilities and must be challenged.

Both the campaign and the dossier has the strong support of Reading West MP Alok Sharma who said:

“I congratulate the campaign team for putting together such a comprehensive document making a very strong case for the hydrotherapy pool at Royal Berkshire hospital. Campaigners and I will be making many of the points raised in this paper when we meet the Chief Executive of the hospital later in the week. As the paper makes clear, if the hospital wants space to deliver other clinical services it should look to the far larger empty building situated directly opposite the hydrotherapy pool.”

A campaign group has been formed comprising representatives of the main patient groups and charities concerned with the medical conditions alleviated by hydrotherapy treatment. An online petition has been launched and together with signatures collected in Reading town centre and elsewhere over 3000 people have indicated their opposition to the planned closure of the pool. The campaign, which has received strong support from Reading’s MPs and local Councillors, is calling on the new RBH Chief Executive Steve McManus to reverse the decision of the previous management regime which ordered the closure without any consultation with users, patient groups or even the hospital’s own Council of Governors.

The dossier, which is publicly endorsed by physiotherapists, local GPs, and Graeme Hoskin - Reading’s Lead Councillor for Health and Well Being - concludes:

We urge our new RBH Chief Executive and the Council of Governors to immediately suspend the closure proposals and begin meaningful consultations with patients, clinicians, hospital governors, public representatives and user groups on the best way to deliver a cost efficient hydrotherapy service for the future.
The campaign to save the hydrotherapy pool is supported by Arthritis Matters, REACH, MS Society, Berks DPAC, Berkshire MS Therapy Centre, Peapods, Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group, Parkinson’s Society and Reading Families Forum.

Kim Seabrook, Chairman Arthritis Matters said:

“Hydrotherapy is a beneficial treatment across generations and across diseases. It enables people to regain their mobility and independence, and manage chronic conditions such as Arthritis, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis with fewer visits to GPs and hospitals. We must keep this valuable facility open for everyone in the local community.”

In their dossier the campaigner highlight the veterinary use of hydrotherapy

It is ironic to say the least that hydrotherapy is more readily available for dogs and horses in Berkshire than it is for humans. A recent survey shows that there are no fewer than 8 hydro facilities for dogs, yet only 1 NHS pool available for humans.

Former Reading West MP Martin Salter has come out of retirement to help coordinate the campaign. He will be attending the meeting organized by Alok Sharma with the RBH management on Friday morning (20th) in his role as patron of the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre.

Mr Salter said:

“In the 26 years I spent as an elected representative in this town I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a poorly presented case made for closing a public service. Our dossier presents powerful evidence to refute the claims made by the hospital management about the clinical benefits of hydrotherapy. It highlights the absurd situation which would see ‘a nearly new pool’ for disabled people - that I helped open in 2005 - closed down on grounds of space whilst the neighbouring block stands empty and would leave us in Berkshire with no fewer than eight hydro pools for dogs and next to nothing for human beings. You really couldn’t make it up!”