Access to Hydrotherapy pools — Scope | Disability forum
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Access to Hydrotherapy pools

veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering

Author Verite Reily Collins had polio when 15 and then she got cancer at 63.  Today she talks to us about hydrotherapy pools and the NHS

I was always keen on sports, especially swimming and I found this not only helpful when recovering from polio but also when treated for cancer.  Today, many hospitals have hydrotherapy pools, which were fashionable but now have fallen out of favour. Yet hydrotherapy is one of best ways of using exercise for recovery. Hippocrates was prescribing this over 2,000 years ago, and 'new' evidence is constantly produced. 

With a father in the Navy, we were living abroad when I when I contracted polio. Flown home to be treated, I ended up in Stanmore Royal National orthopaedic Hospital.  I remember the eminent professor who looked me over after admission, sitting on my bed and trying to be kind as he told me I would never walk again.

Manners went out the window - flat on my back I looked up at him and said "it you think I am staying here for the rest of my life...." Shock! Horror" - I had disparaged his beloved hospital.  His gaze settled on his most junior doctor, and handing  me over, he hastily said "Mr. James will be looking after you".

Mr. James and I got on extremely well;  Sister was surprised at a patient who dared to talk to her hero, but he and I had a good rapport.  Early on, I had persuaded him that I WAS going to walk, and he allowed me to spend hours in the hydro pool, strengthening my muscles. Gradually I got stronger, and one day, when alone, I crawled up the steps and walked - albeit very unsteadily.

This went against protocol;  then, you were expected to 'bed rest', but I persevered until I was found out. Instead of admonishing me, Mr. James made me demonstrate my wobbly walk and I was told to keep this up. eventually I walked out of Stanmore.

So when I got cancer, I expected the same 'working together' ethos, with the MDT clustered around my bed every Friday during Ward Rounds, discussing my case,with a chance to 'say my bit'.  But things have changed. MDT meetings are held well away from patients;  it seems we are incidental.  Even if we suspect our notes have been mixed up, we're unable to challenge this.  So I learnt very quickly to do research on the Internet.  There is a lot of stuff out there, and you soon get a feel for websites that offer duff information, and avoid them like the plague.

I was helped by a Consultant, who recommended me for hydrotherapy as a boost for recovery.  "How long for?"  I asked. "For the rest of your life - it's the best way for you to exercise safely."

And he was right. No fears of falling over and breaking more bones (osteoporosis is a side effect of cancer drugs,and I have fractured 14 bones since getting cancer).  As I went abroad for treatment, the icing on the cake was swimming around in Olympic-sized pools built around the hot springs that proliferate in Europe.  

 Verite Collins

Back in London, I tried out various hospital pools, from standard ones at Chelsea and Westminster and Charing Cross, through the NHS jewel Guys Hospital with its physios with a lovely sense of humour, and if I was feeling rich I could go to King Edward VII - royalty and stars such as Craig Revel Horwood go there, so you mustn't stare at fellow bathers!  The showers have Molton Brown shower gel and shampoo, but as it cost £80 a session, this was a rare treat.

Then I moved to Oxfordshire, and found hydrotherapy is a rare commodity.  The John Radcliffe has the best hydrotherapy pool I have found in England, but the downside is it takes six months for a referral. Then you are only allowed a limited amount of sessions.  Otherwise it is the Circle private hospital in Reading, which has an Aqua Treadmill - not quite a pool,but probably the most effective hydrotherapy treatment I have ever had - even better than the University of Iena's Bad Sulza rehab centre in Germany.  Although not so much fun! And it costs £55 a session, so a rare treat.

But there are hydrotherapy pools all over Britain in NHS hospitals.  Treatment in these is mixed, depending on Accountants' whims (closing hydro services is an easy option to  save money).  Often the excuse for closing is "no demand", so get out there and "demand".  I can promise you it is helpful for many conditions, from Arthritis to Stress and many other conditions. For more information, take a look at my blog After Cancers.

Have you ever used a hydrotherapy pool? Have you found they have been closed down? How difficult is it to get access to this sort of therapy? Let us know your experiences.



  • Ami2301
    Ami2301 Member, Community Co-Production Group Posts: 7,945 Disability Gamechanger
    I would love to try hydrotherapy!
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    I sometimes feel I should transfer my medical care over to the local Vet.  No waiting times, and you are given treats!
  • Richard_Scope
    Richard_Scope Posts: 3,176 Scope online community team
    @veriterc now there's an idea!
    Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead

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    LDNUMBERPAIN Member Posts: 21 Connected
    Hi veriterc, most encouraged by your post, you sound like my kind of lady right along with Norman cousin who as you probably know confounded his own terminal  prognosis and not least the resolute determination of Stephen Hawkins.

    I very much wanted to try hydrotherapy after a referal to investigate a specific type of arthritis -which was  not exactly what I went to see the GP about. While the London hospital has an excellent and well heated hydro pool and plenty of excellent physio support, it was much to well over subscribed to statistically justify its use which, in practice meant a rapid turnover of small groups of patients who were quickly processed rather than given the one to one that is essential for patients with different conditions. 
    Given the health and economic survey (2011-12) which found that nearly half of the Dr s who responded  said it was there own strategies that are the biggest obstruction to the NHS integration I think hydrotherapy is just one example of how the payment for statistical results is a deeply flawed policy.
    I went for two sessions of the 6 allowed and decided it would not really provide the treatment I needed simply because the time limited physio session ties the healing hands of the physio support so I still have the arthritis which continues to be limited by the joint respectful exercise routine I continue to explore and plan to return to swimming next year. 

  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    Interesting to hear your experience.  Have you tried Guys?   Or was I just lucky there? !  Now I have moved to Oxford, saw Consultant yesterday who suggested guided injection to help relieve pain of arthritis in hip.  Have had a couple in my hands - one worked and one didn't.  So suggested to consultant that hydro might be cheaper,and works for me. I had a feeling that the injection was THE modern thing - hence the suggestion. 
    I totally agree with you re physio time   Chelsea and Westminster has a 'brilliant' new idea; physio sets you an exercise, then shoots off elsewhere to attend to another patient - sets them a task and shoots back to you.  One day they are going to collide with a bed and break a leg with these mad dashes!  But when will NHS realise doing the job properly at first saves time in the long run?
  • debbiedo49
    debbiedo49 Member Posts: 2,904 Disability Gamechanger
    I would love to try hydrotherapy and I did ask about it but the physio just looked at me like I was insane. 
  • yme
    yme Member Posts: 4 Listener
    I was referred to hydrotherapy sessions by GP via my pain management consultant. Could not believe the response...

    Sorry but the patient would need one to one support which we cannot do. Plus the patient cannot access the pool as cannot climb steps and this is the only way to access the pool!

    Talk about discrimination....

  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    Incidentally, I have just Googled Hydrotherapy, and up came a huge list of pools locally. Then I looked closer and these are all for treating animals.  It's a sad fact that animals can often get better treatment than the NHS provides for humans!
  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 746 Pioneering
    Virtually every special needs school has one.    Luckily, it's fine to leave this health resource unused for most hours of the day, all weekends, and all days of the year when schools are on holiday.  (Children only need exercise in certain sessions in school hours, don't they?.....don't they?)     

     Plus, they all, without exception, suddenly get miracle cures, or else all emigrate, the day they reach school leaving age, so there is no point allowing any exercise provision at all for anyone who is physically  incapable of 'taking a brisk daily walk' 

    Often, leisure complexes have warmer water for children's pools and for the spa pools.   But there is never any provision for people who are physically incapable of swimming at a cool temperature.   Because no such people exist, do they? they?  

    Of course, daily exercise is vital for the entire population........except  us 'crips' aged over school leaving age.    There are underwater balance balls and treadmills, pools with handrails at different depths, ìndividual glass boxes so people can do seated or standing exercise in pain relieving hot water, while their physios can watch and supervise.    But mostly in u.s.a.   Or, in u.k. for dogs or horses, because  there's no such thing as statutory duty, nor the equality act, is there? there?
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    I so agree - if you can think of anyone/organisation to lobby for better access, let us know and I will be there.
  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 746 Pioneering
    Scope is being asked to provide the token 'consultation', it seems, for a government compliance tick box.  There is an officially started thread titled 'have you ever felt excluded'.?

    Even the most recalcitrant civil servant/political adviser can grasp the direct obvious discrimination in physical exclusion, so you might think, foolishly, that all the multitude of disability funding streams might unite to plead, humbly, that buildings are accessible, particularly newbuild.   And, of course that disabled humans in u.k. might expect equality with dogs.

    But no.  Councils grant new shopfronts planning consent, even when merely swapping the proposed  position of the entrance would make it accessible for disabled users and staff  (note the indirect employment discrimination), for  people pushing buggies, for delivery drivers (hey, who cares if they are injured for life, the only thing that counts is that our architect thought a door here, not there, looked prettier).

     And hey, who, out of all the council  staff, and all the planning committee,  should give a moment of thought to discrimination law and statutory duty?   There is one enforceable equality, it's a  crime, so people have to take notice.   Nothing else is realistically enforceable,  and it's getting steadily worse, as the old Disability Discrimination Act fades in public memory. 

     If you want to stop me using your goods, your private  services, or your purportedly Public Services, you can just go right ahead, where direct or indirect Disability (or Age) Discrimination is concerned.

    There Is N O Meaningful Enforcement, despite millions of breaches per second.

      However, you wouldn't dream of overtly banning me because of my race, because a tax funded torrent of lawyers would have you in terror of being jailed, fined, ruined, your career wrecked, your cosy gold plated pension and knighthood prospects all gone.

    So, will the Scope rep.  go into the next nice chat in Whitehall, and rip the place apart until __________Equal______  equals_____ Equal?     

    Yeah, right.........  Possibly,  but, if they ever dared act in the interests of the 'client group', they would have needed to agree to take a giant risk to their own best interests.

     At hazard is   a hefty charridee and taxpayers' funding stream, a comfortable working lifestyle,  a whole bunch of comfortable salary packages and careers, the power, the status, the knighthoods. 

    So, Scope, and the thousands of others, has conflict of interest.  "Don't rock the boat" "Don't make a fuss"  "Here, have some crumbs".   

    Plus, to still any uneasy consciences, any charity can tell itself there is some good being done.   Oxfam donations and taxpayer subsidy may pay for the staff's prostitutes and champagne in disaster zones, but it does give out blankets.  Eton, and FIFA, are charities getting donations and tax money, so they must have an  ostensible 'good deeds' list.   

    A Devil's Advocate would whisper in the ears of the charity top brass, arguing that Scope has this message board, which is certainly as useful in it's way as any Oxfam blanket.   If charity bosses risk  'speaking  truth to Power,'  maybe Power will snatch away the Scope message board, and the Oxfam blankets?
  • niceboots
    niceboots Member Posts: 196 Pioneering
    Hi I have used hydrotherapy pools a lot, I’m lucky that my local hospital has one and access is reasonably good through the neurophysio, although only for 6 half hour sessions (who knew it only takes 3 hours to ease cp related symptoms!) A local physio has a hydro pool that the hospital hydro pool refers to if you’re willing to pay nearly £20 for half hour, I have done that a few times, but it’s not exactly cheap! But every little helps when I’m tight and achy, especially this time of year.... 
    I do use my local leisure centre pool to do exercises in, it’s not the warmest, but as it’s included in the price of my gym membership I do my best with what’s available. A friend suggested wearing a wetsuit in the pool to keep my muscles warm, which I am open to trying!
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    Where are these pools?  In which town/city?  It would be nice if we could help Yvonne at the British Polio Fellowship who is trying to compile a list of hydro pools around Britain, both NHS and private, adequately heated ones.
  • newborn
    newborn Member Posts: 746 Pioneering
    Thanks for the tip re Polio Fellowship.   But, why don't these splinter group charities make common cause and push all together?   

    And, why not question the logic of precedent?     There is apparently no limit to how much hydro and physio and specialist exercise machines in specialist hospitals, or, for as long as needed, on condition you get injured, not necessarily on active service, but during time you are being employed by armed forces.   

    (You also need to be put top of the social housing list, but your identical twin won't need a home, or any exercise, if he/she gets identical injuries while employed at the supermarket . )

    You can, as another post mentioned, have your c.p. 'mended' for life,  in six sessions of exercise  !?!
    .  I.e   The 'brisk daily walk' is vital  throughout the lifetime for the entire population, but disabled people do not, or should not, live longer than six days, according to the minds of official government/local government and national health organisers. !?!

    You cannot attend a special school without having regular hydrotherapy,   even with a learning disability and a perfectly ordinary healthy body.   But, the day you leave, you need no exercise at all, however complex your physical needs. 

     To an unthinking, time serving civil servant, health boss or politician, either that makes perfect logical sense, or, more likely, they don't give it a moment of thought, because, hey, they get the power, the generous salary, the gold plated pension, and all without needing to give-a-damn about the victims of the systems they are too lazy to bother altering.

    Long ago, disabled activists did get organised, chained themselves to Westminster railings, blocked traffic in Whitehall with wheelchairs, were willing to go to jail to make their point, that they didnt accept being excluded from public transport.      I'm  guessing they would be aggressively hauled off under misuse of terrorist laws, if they tried again.

  • littleruthie123
    littleruthie123 Member Posts: 495 Pioneering
    I would also love too try this treatment.its about the only thing I haven't tried .I presume we need a referral?.from doctor or does it have too be a phsio.ive seen phsio before but couldent really help me alot tbh.can anyone advise?
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    Each referral I have had has been via a GP. But you usually have to do research, as often they have no idea it exists!   You need to tell them to refer you to X hospital for hydro.
  • veriterc
    veriterc Member Posts: 221 Pioneering
    I suspect other charities are under-funded, and don't have time to do extra work.  I got round this by becoming a member - which is usually inexpensive - and they tend to be supportive of members.
    Many of the forces actually contribute to charities that run medical centres.  And their families benefit too.  King Edward VII is known as the best private hospital in London (Royals are treated there), and is run by services charity.  They have a lovely pool, and because my father was in Navy I got a fantastic discount.  So worth thinking about if you have military connections.
  • niceboots
    niceboots Member Posts: 196 Pioneering
    Hi @veriterc the hospital pool I used was at Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth and the private one was at a physio in Portsmouth, but I can’t remember what they’re called.


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