Patients who rely on specialist treatment at a Birmingham hospital are being forced to seek it elsewhere following the closure of its hydrotherapy pool.

People with conditions such as severe arthritis were treated by rheumatologists using the pool at Selly Oak Hospital.

But earlier this month University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), which runs the hospital, decided to discontinue the service.

Accommodating two patients at a time, it was used to help ease pain and improve mobility.

While physiotherapy and other 'land-based' treatments will still be provided at Selly Oak, there are no plans to install a hydrotherapy pool in the trust's £521 million superhospital.

In 2004/ 05, a total of 135 people used the facility with many having three or four sessions. The service received about ten new referrals a month.

Existing patients and people taking part in a research project at the hospital will continue to have access to the pool.

Last night Healthwatch, which campaigns for all proven treatments to be made widely available, criticised the trust's move.

Secretary Michael Allen said: "It's just the usual thing of the NHS spending millions on a new hospital but not thinking about what amenities will benefit its patients.

"This kind of treatment can make all the difference to people with bad arthritis or painful joints, as well as hip replacement surgery.

"We believe hydrotherapy is very useful but it's badly provided for across the country, so the closure of the Selly Oak pool is very sad."

A UHB spokeswoman said it would continue to review the disposition of services which will form part of the new hospital.

She said: "Selly Oak is not the only provider of hydrotherapy services in south Birmingham. Other pools, such as the one at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, offer a superior service in terms of their facilities.

"Many patients have had to be excluded owing to their limited mobility and inability to get in and out of the Selly Oak pool safely."