Concerns raised about loss of hydrotherapy

A decision to stop routine NHS funding of hydrotherapy was scrutinised by a Reading council committee.
Hydrotherapy pool at Royal Berkshire Hospital

People’s experiences have not been heard strongly enough in a local decision to cut NHS funding of hydrotherapy services, according to Reading’s lead councillor for health, wellbeing and sport.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin was speaking after Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group told a council scrutiny committee meeting on 20 January 2021 why it had decided to stop routine funding of pool-based physio sessions.

About the funding cut

  • Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group voted in December 2020 to stop routine NHS funding of hydrotherapy at the Royal Berkshire Hospital

  • The CCG carried out a public consultation from August-December 2020

  • Many patients told the CCG of the benefits of hydrotherapy they experienced

  • The CCG said hydrotherapy was not clinically better than land-based physio

  • The national guidelines body, NICE, doesn't favour hydrotherapy over usual physio

  • In the future, patients seeking NHS-funded hydrotherapy will have to make 'individual funding requests' (IFRs) to the CCG

  • The CCG is now working on clinical guidelines to inform IFRs.

Cllr Hoskin said he felt that the 'lived experience' of people on how hydrotherapy had helped them maintain their independence, health and wellbeing was "not necessarily being listened to as strongly as it might do".

He added that although he understood that the CCG was in a difficult financial position, the hydrotherapy cuts could be a "misplaced saving that doesn’t really take into account the preventative nature of the hydrotherapy service”. Councillor Liz Terry added her concerns that without NHS funding, the hydrotherapy pool, which was also rented out by voluntary groups, could be lost altgoether: “We can’t just lose this service by accident."

Iain Croker, an organising officer at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, told the meeting there had not been enough discussion about the equality impact of the decision, given that “some of the most disabled members of society depend on this service”.

Shairoz Claridge, director of operations for planned care and long term conditions at the CCG, told the scrutnity committee: “I want to be clear that we did take on board the consultation.” But she added that feedback on wellbeing could have come from voluntary sector-run sessions at the pool, rather than separate, NHS-funded use of patients.

The CCG’s focus was on clinical critieria “so the patients who would most benefit from it and have that need, will gain that access”, Ms Claridge said.

Discussions with the hospital were ongoing about the overall future of the pool and the CCG was also exploring other local pools for future ‘spot purchasing’ of hydrotherapy sessions.

Go to meeting papers (item 8)

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