NHS to pull plug on therapy baths

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HEALTH bosses in Lothian were today urged to rethink plans to close one or more hydrotherapy pools which offer vital help to patients with a variety of conditions.

A 12-week public consultation will begin shortly on the future of NHS Lothian’s pools at the Western General Hospital, the Astley Ainslie and St John’s Hospital, Livingston.

Options include closing one of the pools or decommissioning all three.

But patients who use the pools warned any closure could have a serious impact and called for all of them to be kept.

Iain Macdonald, who has ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spinal condition which results in a stoop, said he could not speak highly enough of the benefit he and fellow sufferers got from regular hydrotherapy sessions.

He said: “There is a group of us attend the Western General every Monday evening.

“We all find the hydrotherapy sessions very beneficial and it would be a great loss to us if the pool were to close.”

Mr Macdonald, 65, from Barnton, said there was also a hidden benefit to the health service from the hydrotherapy.

“It’s an enthusiastic self-help group and by helping ourselves we are not bothering the medical fraternity.

“I’ve been using it for the past five or six years, but the facility has been at the Western General for about 20 years and people have benefited from it throughout that time.” He is a member of the Edinburgh branch of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society, which is backing the campaign to retain all the pools.

Its says regular hydrotherapy is proven to help improve flexibility, mobility and overall quality of life in those with the condition.

The three Lothian pools are used each year by around 1000 patients with a range of conditions including musculo-skeletal, learning disabilities, and those requiring rehabilitation services.

NHS Lothian says the public consultation follows a lengthy review and engagement process with staff, patients and private users of the three pools.

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian director of strategic planning, said: “We have completed the first stage of the review process and the general consultation will now begin. We are keen for everyone involved in hydrotherapy to submit their views.”