A review of an important treatment for arthritis and other medical conditions is ‘premature’, a Reading health chief has warned.

The hydrotherapy pool at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading could be axed, with a public consultation underway to determine its future.

The Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is running the survey on the future of the hydrotherapy service, which is available to residents in Reading, West Berkshire, and Wokingham.

READ MORE: Hydrotherapy services could be cut to save NHS money

It says the ongoing challenges and potentially open-ended nature of the pandemic has prompted the review.

But Reading councillor Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) lead member for Health and Wellbeing, has submitted a motion calling for hydrotherapy services to remain open and, where possible, be increased.

Cllr Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) lead member for Health and Wellbeing, writes: “It is premature to make decisions about the permanent provision of services like hydrotherapy based on the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is too soon to understand whether the virus will have a long-term impact on the need of people to socially distance and maintain Covid-19 infection control policies.

“There is a strong probability that the human and financial costs caused by the detrimental impacts on people’s health and wellbeing from the closure of this therapy service will far outweigh any short-term savings.”

READ MORE: Pandemic sees Reading lose £29m from students not being in town

RBC will discuss the motion at a full council meeting next Tuesday (October 20). It passed a similar motion in January 2017 in response to a previous consultation, on whether to close hydrotherapy services in Reading.

Berkshire West CCG’s 2019/20 financial plan shows a funding gap of more than £20 million, which was before the extra pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic means the hydrotherapy pool is currently closed.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of different conditions, including arthritis, muscular skeletal, and neurological conditions.

Hydrotherapy differs from swimming because it involves special exercises that you do in a pool with a physiotherapist, with water temperature at 33-36C, which is warmer than a typical swimming pool.

According to the Royal Berkshire Hospital website, hydrotherapy can help with the relief of pain and muscle spasm, increasing range of movement and improving both the strength and control of muscles as well as helping encourage weightbearing, especially where land-based exercise is very difficult.

There is strong support for NHS hydrotherapy in Reading by a range of charities and support groups, including Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts, Arthritis Matters, Parkinson’s UK, Reading Families’ Forum, Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group, the MS Society and the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre, according to Cllr Hoskin.

The Berkshire West CCG said there is a lack of definitive clinical evidence for the benefits of hydrotherapy but added: “It is shown to improve mobility, strengthen muscles, increase circulation and help movement in some painful joints”.

There has been a fall in usage of the pool in the last few years, with 247 people using NHS hydrotherapy in Berkshire West in 2019 compared to 292 in 2017.

You can have your say at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/hydrotherapy.

The closing date for feedback is November 2.