I'm sure you've all heard the awful news about the proposed closure of the hydrotherapy pool at the Royal Berks Hospital.
Back in 1998 I campaigned with Arthritis Matters, the MS Society and many others to ensure that the new consolidated hospital on the RBH site contained a hydrotherapy facility. We had a pool at Battle Hospital - originally paid for by Friends of Reading Hospitals - but unfortunately no provision for hydrotherapy was made in the relocation plans. We were eventually successful and I was delighted to attend the opening of the brand new pool in 2005.
As you know hydrotherapy is an invaluable treatment for those suffering from chronic pain conditions and despite what is being claimed the pool is well used and costs very little in terms of subsidy. The letter from Dr Janet Lippett, Care Group Director at the RBH, confirms this as they acknowledge an income of £49,000 against running costs of £60,000. And given that hydrotherapy prevents many patients from having to attend hospital it is clear that closure of the pool would more than likely end up costing the NHS far more than the current administration are looking to save. With a rising elderly population the demand for hydrotherapy is only going to grow which is why it is so short sighted to be suggesting any form of closure.
I've agreed to come out of retirement to support the campaign to keep the hydrotherapy pool open and have been in touch with my successor Alok Sharma MP who is happy to take up the issue on behalf of us all. Alok is seeking a meeting with the hospital management in the next couple of weeks and is prepared to take a small delegation from the various user groups with him. This is clearly very helpful but Alok needs lots of letters and emails to present to the hospital management backing up our case. So I've agreed to help coordinate this activity which is why I'm writing to you today.
What needs to happen next
We would everybody to write or email Mary Sherry, Acting Chief Executive and Graham Simm, Chairman of the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust with a copy to Alok Sharma MP
Please also make sure you sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/chairman-keep-the-hydrotherapy-pool-at-the-royal-berks-hospital
POINTS TO MAKE:
Attached is an excellent letter from the MS Society which makes several important points which you might want to use. However, here a few bullet points that might be helpful to include in your correspondence.
* I am / my friend or family member / is a sufferer of Arthritis / Multiple Sclerosis / Fibromyalgia / Parkinson's / Chronic Back Pain / INSERT OTHER CONDITION and a regular user of the Hydrotherapy Pool at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
* Hydrotherapy has proved invaluable for me in dealing with my chronic condition and not only brings relief from pain but prevents me from relapsing and having to become reliant on other more expensive NHS services.
* There is no other public hydrotherapy pool within 30 miles of Reading and should the RBH pool close I will experience even greater levels of pain and my condition could well deteriorate still further.
* The pool is well used by in patients during the day and by the various charities and groups in the evening including MS Society, Arthritis Care, Fibromyalgia Support Group, Parkinson's Society and others. These groups contribute a substantial sum towards the running costs of the pool.
* Many of us also pay for our own physiotherapists to work with us in the evenings at the pool. These physiotherapists firmly believe that hydrotherapy is essential in the treatment of conditions such as mine.
* I must ask you to reconsider the decision to close the hydrotherapy pool and to provide me with a full assessment of the impact on patient care, the likely increase in demand on other hospital services and to tell me where else I would be able to receive affordable hydrotherapy treatment which is vital for both my condition and for providing me with some relief from chronic pain?
* Furthermore I must insist that this matter is bought before the Council of Governors at the RBH so that all aspects can be properly and transparently examined.
* I am sending a copy of this correspondence to Alok Sharma MP
There a number of potentially supportive Governors at the RBH who you might also like to contact or to copy into your correspondence. The ones that I know include the following but I'm sure there are others.
The full governors list can be found here: http://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/meet-your-governors.htm
There may be other points you wish to make so do include anything you think would be helpful but please get writing today and let's build a strong campaign to get this unacceptable decision reversed. Please circulate this information to as many people as possible.
We will be in touch again soon to advise you of further initiatives and a possible press photo call.
Former MP for Reading West and Patron of Berkshire MS Therapy Centre.