Is St Albans hospital pool to close for good?

Kay DePeza and Rosie Dolling outside the hydrotherapy pool at St Albans hospital

Kay DePeza and Rosie Dolling outside the hydrotherapy pool at St Albans hospital - Credit: Archant

A vital hospital pool which brings relief to scores of people and has been shut since last summer is no closer to reopening – amid growing fears that it could be closed for good.

Patients suffering crippling arthritic pain are being forced to visit public pools and even a hotel spa centre for relief because St Albans Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool has been closed for six months.

And some elderly patients who have had surgery on their joints, including hip replacements, have become so immobile that specialists have recommended they return to the operating table for more surgery.

The debacle has been revealed after hospital chiefs were exposed by patients for misleading the public over their care.

Despite the hydrotherapy pool being a vital aid for post-operative recovery and boosting the mobility of those with arthritis, it has remained shut since last summer because of a broken pipe.

In a joint statement to the Herts Advertiser in January the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust and Herts Community NHS Trust said that while the pool was closed because of a damaged pipe, they were “urgently” trying to reopen the pool, the only one run by the NHS in Herts.

But this week they said a decision on its future should be made public by the end of next week.

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The two trusts also claimed that patients were being given alternative forms of physiotherapy and other therapies.

But according to St Albans arthritis sufferer Rosie Dolling, 57, that is not true.

Speaking on behalf of a group of about 40 patients with arthritis who use the hydrotherapy pool, she said: “We have been offered nothing. No one has been contacted and I have been discharged from physio because there is no alternative therapy.”

Rosie has had knee and hip replacements along with a spinal fusion and until last summer had been regularly using the facility.

She and other sufferers have been forced to go elsewhere for relief from joint pain and stiffness, at their own expense.

Rosie said they had tried the spa pool at Westminster Lodge but because the jets of water were too strong, it was unsuitable.

In desperation she and other patients are also having trial sessions at a spa pool at the Holiday Inn in Hemel Hempstead, where they are having to pay for a physiotherapist to help them.

Rosie said: “One patient is awaiting further spinal fusion and is left virtually immobile without hydrotherapy.”

She said the woman’s mobility has deteriorated to such an extent since the pool’s closure that she too has been discharged from physiotherapy.

Rosie added: “I’m gobsmacked that 40 people can just be dumped without any possible alternative therapy.

“Some people are going back to their surgeons to get relief because they are getting so immobile. It’s dreadful.”

The ongoing closure has prompted St Albans district councillor for Batchwood, Roma Mills, to say she fears the pool will be closed permanently.

The spokesman for the trusts said hydrotherapy was just one treatment offered to patients but could not explain why they had not been offered alternative therapy.