Water-based activities

Physiotherapist Sarah Cox has worked with NHS England to produce a resource highlighting the benefits of aquatic activity

Sarah Cox specialist in rehabilitation, aquatic physiotherapy rehabilitation
Sarah Cox is a specialist in rehabilitation and aquatic physiotherapy rehabilitation

Have you put a key part of your job into the NHS website and come up with something completely unrelated? Try ‘hydrotherapy’. The response ‘Hypnotherapy - a type of complementary therapy that uses hypnosis... 

Sixty-six per cent of our trusts have access to a pool on site, 23 per cent have access to pools off site or use non-NHS run facilities. A hydrotherapy pool is exactly what the NHS is aiming to be – a collaboration across specialities. Water-based exercises and activities can be adapted by a trained and specialised physiotherapist to give an effective intervention for nearly every condition, age, stage of recovery or rehabilitation. But our warm water pools, especially our NHS hydrotherapy pools, are threatened with closure, staffing issues, higher energy costs. A pool used well and collaboratively by for example MSK, neuro, rheumatology, paediatrics, mental health, social care, specialist pain services, charities (for example, NASS) will show benefit to all department’s outcomes and speciality audits. 

Swimming is helping to save the health and social care system more than £357m per year (Value of Swimming Report, Swim England 2023).

Most of us are aware that aquatic activity is probably a good thing to do! ATACP (Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists) have been collaborating with Swim England and the University of Nottingham to engage and encourage all health professionals to feel confident, competent, and capable in signposting to water-based activities.

Want to know what happens to the heart and lungs when you stand in 1.2 metres of water? Why kidneys have diuresis? What does that mean for certain diseases and long-term health conditions? Go to a new e-learn module (20 mins) on the e-lfh site and the new NHSE learning hub. It shares physiology of immersion, discusses barriers, and offers benefits and justification to have an informed discussion with patients to encourage water as part of their rehab. The e-learn module is available free with open access. Soon, I hope, the NHS website will have something to suggest/share about hydrotherapy. 

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