Reading West MP Alok Sharma has been working since November with local campaigners, including the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, Arthritis Matters, REACH Wokingham, Reading Families' Forum, and the Reading Fibromyalgia Support Group, to get Royal Berkshire Hospital to reverse its decision to close the hydrotherapy pool at the hospital.
Alok met with Acting Chief Executive Mary Sherry on 19 December and subsequently wrote to the new Chief Executive Steve McManus calling on the hospital to reverse its decision.
Alok is taking a delegation of campaigners and representatives of local patient and medical charities to meet with Mr McManus on Friday 20 January.
Commenting on the hospital’s decision to defer the closure of the hydrotherapy pool until the end of June 2017, Alok said: “Whilst I welcome this reprieve and appreciate the new Chief Executive needs to understand the full spectrum of issues at the hospital, it does not change the fact that hydrotherapy is a vital service and needs to be retained.”
Alok continued: “During the meeting on Friday I will be asking the Chief Executive to conclude on this issue much faster than June. Delays in the confirmation of a continuing hydrotherapy service just makes vulnerable patients’ even more anxious and worried and we need a clear statement now that the hospital recognises the benefits of this service and will work with local campaigners to overcome any financial viability issues with the service.”
Former Reading West MP Martin Salter, who is a Patron of the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre, said: “Obviously we want to thank Steve McManus for listening to us and seeking to put right the wrongs of his predecessor. It is clearly no coincidence that they announce the postponement on the day we produce a dossier taking apart their flimsy case for closing a much needed medical facility.”
Mr Salter added: “They say they want to fully address the questions that have been raised by ourselves and the MPs and to properly engage with users and their representatives but for this to happen in any meaningful way there are a number things we will need to get straight first at our meeting with the hospital management if we are to have any kind of meaningful dialogue.”
Kim Seabrook, Chair of Arthritis Matters Reading, said: “As we have made clear throughout our campaign, which has seen over 3000 register their disgust at the proposed closure, hydrotherapy is a beneficial treatment that works across generations and across diseases. It enables people to regain their mobility and independence, and manage chronic conditions such as Arthritis, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis with fewer visits to GPs and hospitals. We will keep on fighting to keep this valuable facility permanently open for everyone in the local community. We are not interested in any temporary postponement.”