Response to closure
St George’s Friends and Service Users’ Response following PCC’s Cabinet Decision to close St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool
On behalf of hydrotherapy users, past present and future, we cannot let Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet decision to close St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool and the Leader’s Blog relating to this to pass without speaking up. We need to hold on to evidence and truth.
The blog states that to close the pool was in best interests everyone in our city and ‘not just those who want to access hydrotherapy provision at St George’s.’
We would maintain that keeping a hydrotherapy pool - especially if there’s no ongoing costs to the Council - is in the best interests of everyone in the city. We’ll try to explain some of the reasons why.
Peterborough’s community hydrotherapy model at St George’s was respected by professional health organizations across the country.
Anyone in the Peterborough might have a need of hydrotherapy at any time. And the word ‘need’ is important; it’s not a want, a whim or a wish as suggested.
St George’s had 4500 registered users of whom 250 were accessing the pool each week.
The pool was used by a wide range of Peterborough residents: disabled people, those with long-term health conditions and those rehabilitating. For many there was no alternative way of successfully managing their health and wellbeing and pain. For many it brought companionship and enormous pleasure too.
Surely residents, especially those in need, taking the initiative and paying to self-manage their health, should be something a responsible council should be encouraging - not taking it away.
It was the Council who approached Consult Physio to buy St George’s. The sale would have generated a profit for the council of £65-75k after £30-40k preparation costs. All further financial responsibilities, including refurbishing and the running of the pool – with continued community access - would lie with the Consult Physio – not the council. It was an absolute win-win for the city, which is why this plan was supported by the users and passed by Full Council.
This council reneged on this at the last moment. Various reasons have been given – none have proved satisfactory.
It’s engendered an enormous loss of trust. I imagine most involved or affected won’t forget. I’ve never heard such normally temperate people so outraged.
A headline figure of £280k is now being mentioned by the Council for not proceeding but it was never asked to refurbish, re-open and run the pool, just to honour its original agreement to sell.
However, there’s no mention of the costs of not opening to St George’s.
The loss of the over £1.5 millions of economic and social value that St George’s was delivering each year. Especially to Adult Social Care - the very service that is putting strain on council finances.
And of course, one can’t put a price on the loss of users’ independence and health. Devastating and heart-breaking does not do justice to some of the stories emerging.
The increasing number of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and the need for Heltwate School to expand is also cited as a reason for closing the hydrotherapy pool.
Turning St George’s pool into useable school space would surely be an incredibly expensive and unfeasible use of taxpayers’ money. Especially when the new Heltwate School extension on the Silver Jubilee pub site is already under construction and the school may relocate.
Ironically, losing St George’s pool would deprive those same SEND pupils at Heltwate, and across the city, of the very hydrotherapy that they need.
When open, 18 different Peterborough schools and organizations had used St George’s for the benefit of their SEND pupils. At times 140 children and young people with disabilities could be accessing the pool each week.
As there are no other hydrotherapy facilities available in the area, as for adults, closing St George’s would deprive those same children of a service that they need.
In contrast, in 2017 community hydrotherapy was held to be so valuable to the city a new community pool was to be built with Heltwate School. Instead of a new pool, this unnecessary decision leaves the city with no facilities at all!
We are told hydrotherapy is not statutory duty. We quite understand but would point out that the council funds other non-statutory services. For example, those that deliver leisure and sports. This is great. However, why is a pool that delivers so much to so many in need and whose users cannot go elsewhere seemingly singled out for closure? The hydrotherapy users were not even asking the Council for funding, just to complete the sale that would have given a profit.
Cabinet members have stated that hydrotherapy should be delivered by NHS or a private provider. May we respectfully point out that Consult Physio is a private a provider. Therefore, yet again, why not sell, as agreed, so St George’s remained open and available for the city’s residents.
The Council’s rushed decision leaves other uncomfortable questions too.
Why were the city’s MPs so noticeably silent on the loss of service that impacted so many of their most vulnerable residents?
Why was the debate on the petition to save St George’s delayed until after the Cabinet had made its decision. Why could this matter, which is of interest to thousands of local people and their families, not be fairly debated and decided by all the city’s councillors?
Why was the very generous offer of a presentation on St George’s behalf by a group of national health experts and leaders not even accepted by the Cabinet before it made its decision?
This with knowledge St George’s signs had been removed before the Cabinet meeting to ostensibly make its decision, and the evidence that some Cabinet Members/advisors had not even read our representations, lends itself to the belief that the decision to close St George’s had already been made.
And why is there so much quibbling over the amount of profit selling St George’s under the current deal compared with what could – or not - could be achieved compared with what could be made if the pool and school were sold together, be the reason for such decision? It’s speculative, and meanwhile with no alternative pool, the enormous value that hydrotherapy delivers to the city is lost.
Also why would a site that houses a recently refurbished (2018) school for SEND pupils be sold if there is an increasing demand for such school places as stated?
Why is there so much scrutiny over this comparatively small amount of money in Council might or might not make, when millions of losses for taxpayers under the council’s recent Northminster deal is seemingly so casually brushed away? When compared, the St George’s decision and scrutiny feels somewhat discriminatory and cruel.
And of course this ignores the £1.5 million value the city and council will lose every year with the hydrotherapy pool closed; the damage that’s being done to vulnerable residents’ lives and the increase in health inequalities that this will create.
We cannot allow a community hydrotherapy service that’s so valuable to the city and its residents to be lost.
There is still time to produce a positive outcome for St George’s users and Peterborough.
- Firstly, we ask for the decision on St George’s future to be democratically debated and decided by Full Council.
- If then required, we urge the Council to source a hydrotherapy facility that is a genuine alternative in the interim, for St George’s users.
- Finally, as agreed at the cabinet meeting , we ask the Council to help locate a piece of land for Consult Physio on which a new hydrotherapy pool can be built that includes community use.
We call upon everyone to work together to achieve these positive results for the city and its residents.