Patients criticise closure of hydrotherapy pool at St Albans Hospital

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

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

After leaving patients high and dry over the possible closure of St Albans Hospital’s hydrotherapy pool for nine long months, health chiefs have finally confirmed they are pulling the plug on the vital service.

St Albans MP Anne Main has blasted a decision by the Herts Community NHS Trust to permanently close the pool which has been shut since last September because of a gas leak from a damaged pipe.

David Law, chief executive of the trust, yesterday (11) finally confirmed the facility would remain shut.

But Mrs Main said the decision was based purely on cutting costs, as she was told the pipe repair would be about £100,000.

Mr Law admitted the “high” repair cost and ongoing funding needed to continue the service had brought forward decisions the trust would have had to have made in the future about the pool’s viability.

He said that at a “time of budgetary constraint” meeting such costs would have meant the trust “having to make very difficult choices about other therapy provision for patients”.

But Mrs Main said she was concerned about the impact on patients, particularly those pain-ridden with various conditions who rely on the pool for increasing or maintaining mobility, and had found traditional therapies offered as an alternative nowhere near as effective.

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She said: “I am annoyed because it has taken such a long time to find out what the future of the service is.

“The cynic in me thinks they have taken a long time to officially announce a decision, so people have given up waiting to hear the outcome.”

The decision has come as a blow - but not a surprise - to locals using the service.

Just three months ago the Herts Ad carried a story warning of the pool’s likely closure.

Patients suffering crippling arthritic pain have for months been forced to visit public pools and even a hotel spa centre at their own expense for relief.

And some elderly patients who have had surgery on their joints, including hip replacements, have become so immobile that specialists have recommended more surgery.

St Albans arthritis sufferer Rosie Dolling said patients would be disappointed at the decision.

She urged trust members to visit a hydrotherapy pool to see how it worked, adding, “People who are on crutches and have limited mobility on land become more mobile in the water.”

Gary Wood, who suffers from a type of chronic arthritis, said: “It is really frustrating. You can’t put a price on the health of all those people using the pool.”