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Commissioning of hydrotherapy services in Berkshire West

Our Governing Body took the decision at its meeting on 8th December 2020, to change the way we commission hydrotherapy, and moving forward to only commission hydrotherapy for NHS patients where there are exceptional clinical circumstances.  We will in future consider a clinical referral for hydrotherapy through the commissioning process for Individual Funding Requests (IFRs). An IFR request is based on whether a treatment should be provided for one particular patient when it would not be funded for other patients who have the same, or a substantively similar, condition.

The CCG regularly reviews Procedures of Limited Clinical value (PLCV) and this is a treatment where the clinical effectiveness over lower cost land-based therapy is either absent or weak for the majority of patients.  Our clinical effectiveness team will be working with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) to develop the clinical criteria for hydrotherapy.  We hope, depending on operational pressures, to have an agreed implementation date for these changes by the start of the new financial year.

Dr Ragu Reddy, Secondary Care Consultant on the Governing Body, said: “This has not been an easy decision and we appreciate it will disappoint some people who feel they have benefitted from hydrotherapy treatment. However, there is limited, definitive evidence on the clinical effectiveness of hydrotherapy (it is not a service offered universally across the NHS) and we have a duty to prioritise Berkshire West’s scarce financial resources prudently and allocate them to the commissioning of services that are clinically sound and meet the needs of the widest cohort of patients.”


Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (BWCCG) ran a 12-week public consultation, from the 10 August - 2 November 2020, to seek views on the future provision of hydrotherapy services in Berkshire West. Berkshire West CCG commissions hydrotherapy services which are currently provided at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

The NHS has a duty to ensure the services and care it provides are fit for purpose and that money is being spent wisely to provide modern, efficient and effective services for the benefit of as many people as possible.

What is Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy is the use of water in the treatment of different conditions, including arthritis, muscular skeletal and neurological conditions. Hydrotherapy differs from swimming because it involves special exercises that you do in a pool with a physiotherapist, with water temperature at 33-36C, which is warmer than a typical swimming pool.