Over 1,000 people have banded together and signed a petition challenging the planned closure of a hydrotherapy pool at Orpington Hospital.

The pool has been closed, drained and boarded over since 2020.

Since then, no aquatic physiotherapy provision has been made for neuro in-patients and other local users who used the pool before the pandemic.

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has said that the pool requires expensive repairs that currenty the Trust isn’t in a position to fund.

Ms C Jones, National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society representative and local pool user, said: “Hydrotherapy has been an essential component in helping me to live with ankylosing spondylitis. 

“From my initial diagnosis at the age of 19 when I was immobile for three months, intensive hydrotherapy enabled me to get back on my feet in time to start college and return to a normal life. 

“Hydrotherapy has been a key component of my treatment helping manage painful and debilitating flare-ups. 

“Hydrotherapy has reduced my pain levels and reliance on drug therapy, improved my mobility, fitness and quality of life and been of immeasurable help to my general wellbeing.”

Alex Nambiyah, a chartered physiotherapist, said: “Access to hydrotherapy pools and aquatic physiotherapy is a vital form of rehabilitation for patients suffering with a variety of long- term conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“It also benefits those recovering from orthopaedic surgery or injury.

“However, despite the benefits for patients and the wider health economy, the pool at Orpington has been mothballed.

“This has had serious consequences for the patients who rely on these services to maintain health wellbeing and quality of life.”

Trust staff shared that an anti-gravity treadmill was purchased as an alternative for neurological patients, but that it is being kept in a storage facility because of its size and loud noise levels.

Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and patients are outraged at the situation and are now attempting to challenge the local health trust to reverse its decision, which they say was made overnight and without carrying out a proper consultation and assessment on the detrimental impact to patients and other local users.

Iain Croker, CSP organising officer, said: “There is concern that the treadmill is being showcased as a viable alternative to aquatic physiotherapy at Orpington when it is not suitable for all service users.

“The machine requires patients to step up onto it which many patients cannot do because of their neurological impairments rendering it impractical, inaccessible and preventing access for the most vulnerable-further compounding health inequalities which is unacceptable.

“More than 1,000 people have signed the petition challenging the closure of the Orpington hydrotherapy pool.

“They include physios, hospital staff, patients and local residents all united in concern at the loss of this valuable resource.

“Alternative provision is limited and inaccessible for many with a disability and we call upon the CEO to meet with stakeholders to discuss our concerns.”

A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “There are no plans at present to re-open the hydrotherapy pool at Orpington Hospital, and we have previously been in contact with the CSP to explain the reasons for this.

“Unfortunately, the pool requires extensive repairs and ongoing maintenance that is very expensive, and which the Trust is not in a position to fund.

“In addition, we need to ensure all hospital space is used for the maximum patient benefit, and we are currently using the room in which the pool is located to carry out pre-assessments for patients undergoing surgery at Orpington Hospital.”