Hydrotherapy pools are increasingly coming under threat. During this extremely difficult period for all our members, it can feel like a huge challenge to preserve your service when you are constantly having to adapt to the changing world around you. But by working together, we can ensure the highest levels of patient care.
So we're sharing these six tips to support members when campaigning against closures, influencing decision makers and demonstrating the value of their aquatic physiotherapy service to patients.
1. Establish the reason
The first task when your hydrotherapy pool is threatened is to establish the reasoning behind the decision – i.e. why might your service have been earmarked for closure?
Could it be because decision makers and budget holders don’t know enough about your service and their false perception is driving their decision? Is it simply that the space is underused? Or does it come down to finance?
Establishing the reason for the decision is vital as it will help form the basis of how you try to influence the decision makers. If you can counteract their justification effectively, you will have a greater chance of being able to overturn the decision.
2. Establish the process
It is becoming more and more common for services to be earmarked for closure or relocation without a proper consultation process or appropriate risk assessments. Find out the timeframe and process for consultation for the decision, and ask if appropriate governance procedures have been followed – i.e. risk assessment and equality impact assessment.
This can often be a useful first step in challenging the decision and could allow you some time to gather the evidence you need to support your case.
3. Collect the evidence
Whatever the reason for the threat, there is nothing better than hard evidence to show the value of your service to patients. Combined with compelling patient stories, data is often the best way to grab the attention of decision makers and make it difficult to argue against your case.
Do you collect patient outcomes? Can you show how much money your service saves other parts of the health service? Have you collected any evidence on the benefits of hydrotherapy against similar services?
All of these can help bolster your case.
4. Raise the profile of your hydrotherapy service
Quite often, decision makers don’t have an intimate knowledge of every service they’re responsible for. You can counter this by taking the opportunity to promote your service before it gets earmarked for closure. You could showcase key achievements with senior managers and leaders, enter your service for local and national awards or invite decision makers to visit your service and see first-hand the difference it makes to patients' lives.
Raising the profile of your service can help keep it fresh in the minds of decision makers when they are choosing what to do.
5. Know your audience
It’s important to know who your audience is when campaigning against a decision. The arguments that may work with your peers or with patients may not be the same arguments that convince decision makers. Find out what the decision makers expect from your service and understand the process that has led them to consider closing the service. That way, you can argue for your service in their language and promote your service as a means for them to reach their objectives without resorting to the proposed changes.
6. Tell the story
There may be a number of people and organisations that can help tell the story of your service.
The most obvious group are patients. Their positive experiences of your service can often be highly effective ways of influencing decision makers. Combined with strong evidence and data, a compelling narrative can often be the difference between overturning a decision or not.
You could also find out how the potential closure would affect any patient groups or charities in the area and ask them to support you in your campaign. If the proposed change also goes against their interests, then they may be happy to support and help lobby your decision makers against the proposal.
Having numerous voices supporting your argument can really help put pressure on decision makers.
Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to preserving your services for patients. Remember, the CSP is always on hand to give you any support or advice you may need.
The Campaigns and Regional Engagement Officer for your country/region can support you to influence on topics like service closures. You can contact the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.