Hydrotherapy pool staff shortages to be discussed by NHS Borders

Borders General Hospital.
Borders General Hospital.

NHS Borders is reviewing the way the hydrotherapy pool at Borders General Hospital is run, following recent forced closures due to lack of qualified staff.

The pool, situated on the facility’s ground floor, is highly valued by patients who require water-based therapy and exercise as part of rehabilitation sessions.

For safety reasons, a specially-trained additional member of staff has to be present poolside during these sessions, but an “unprecedented” level of staff absences in recent months has meant the facility could not be used.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP, Rachael Hamilton, wrote to the health secretary Jeane Freeman to seek assurances on the future of the pool.

In the response, Ms Freeman said: “My officials have contacted NHS Borders who recognise the value of this extremely beneficial service.

“In recent months, all healthcare support workers working in the physiotherapy department at Borders general Hospital have been absent from workdue to unforeseen circumstances.

“They do apolgise, but this situation is unprecendented and in no way suggests the removal of the service.

“The local physiotherapy service is currently in discussions with other parts of NHS Borders to identify options for how healthcare support worker provision can be provided to allow delivery of the service.”

In the response from the Health Secretary, an apology from NHS Borders was issued, and there is to be a discussion into staff provision for maintaining numbers at the hydrotherapy pool.

However, her words failed to placate the Conservative MSP.

She said: “Whilst I am glad we have received an apology, the fact remains that with very little notice, the hydrotherapy pool can be closed.

“My constituents rely on this vital service, and staff shortages at NHS Borders must be addressed to ensure that it continues to operate normally.

“I am still not convinced that the future of the hydrotherapy pool is guaranteed, as without a robust staffing plan, we may see many more days when the pool is closed at short notice.

“I look forward to hearing what NHS Borders plan to do to ensure it remains open”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders told us: “Patient safety is our number one priority.

“Unforeseen and unplanned absences are very difficult by definition to manage.

“Therefore, at times it may not always be possible to guarantee sufficient staffing to ensure that people can use the facility safely.

“We are reviewing the options to improve our resilience and staffing levels.”

We asked NHS Borders how many people were trained to support patients at the pool, and how often it was used.

The spokesperson said: “All our physiotherapists are able to support patients using the hydrotherapy pool.

“This facility is used as and when required when it is deemed as the most appropriate treatment for patients and therefore numbers of patients using it can fluctuate.

“Currently, we have around 20 patients using the pool on a weekly basis.”