Patients across the West Midlands are struggling to gain access to adequate amenities for hydrotherapy, according to a Birmingham therapist.

Following the 'phasing out' of Selly Oak Hospital's hydrotherapy pool, people suffering from rheumatological conditions such as arthritis, or recovering from surgery, are being forced to seek private treatment.

The pool, which accommodated up to two people at a time, was used to help ease patients' pain and improve their mobility

But in April, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, decided to discontinue the service.

Now patients finding difficulty in accessing NHS treatment are turning to practices such as Bluebell Spa, which treats private patients at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, in Northfield.

Manager Nikki Pickering said the provision of hydrotherapy pools was vital, because patients did not receive the same benefits by going to their local swimming baths.

The water in most treatment pools is 34C (95F) because they have to be warm enough for the muscles and joints to relax and be manipulated.

In municipal pools, the water temperature is about 27C (80F).

Ms Pickering said: "For rheumatological conditions the water needs to be much warmer.

"Also patients often can't get in to most public pools because they aren't designed for people with mobility problems."

Hydrotherapy can assist with a variety of conditions, from sports injuries and post operative recovery, to neurological complaints and mobility problems.

But an increasing number of Ms Pickering's clients are seeking relief from workplace stress and RSI - repetitive strain injuries.

"Stress and RSI can cause people's upper bodies to become tense with knotted muscles," she said.

"The warm temperature of the pool means this is like a soothing water massage for them and we've been told this has also reduced some clients' headaches."

Adam Malin, a PE teacher from Harborne suffered an horrific knee injury during pre-season training with Old Griffinians Rugby Club.

The 26-year-old suffered torn ligaments, damaged cartilage and hamstrings, and shattered part of his knee.

"I had to have two operations, one in April 2004 to rebuild the torn ligaments in both legs and another last April to bolt together the bones in my knee," he said.

"I was doing sports physiotherapy at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital but the movement was just not coming back, my body was just not responding.

"After the first operation I had a course of NHS hydrotherapy here at the Royal Orthopaedic and it went so well that even the physios here said it had made a massive difference."

Mr Malin added: "When you do exercise you haven't got any support but in the water your whole body is supported which enables you to move more easily.

"There needs to be extra support for hydrotherapy and the specialist physios who help patients recover. This is definitely a vital service, and should be regarded as such by the NHS."

Laura Piggott, a retired medical secretary, said her movement had improved noticeably since she started her course of hydrotherapy.

The 86-year-old, of Bournville, had a hip operation at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in 2003.

"Initially I found this quite hard at first, but after a couple of weeks I could see it was working," she said.

"Now, I can see a major difference.

"All I wanted to be able to do after the operation was to be able to walk to the shops and so on, which someone had to do for me until recently."

* For more information about hydrotherapy at the ROH, call the Bluebell Spa on 01785 887833 or visit