People suffering from a debilitating and painful condition have hit out at an NHS trust for closing a hydrotherapy pool to make way for a new corridor.

Save Our Spines, which represents patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), says the loss of aquatic physiotherapy at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone has caused the health of its members to seriously deteriorate. 

The pool was shut in June, five months before Barts Health Trust announced a £6.8 million project which will see the maternity unit directly linked with the main hospital to improve care for pregnant women in emergencies.

Hamilton Reed, who cares for his elderly mother and aunt, was recently admitted to hospital after his health took a turn for the worse.

The 47-year-old of South Woodford said: “My AS flared up so badly – I had hardly any mobility at all.

“If I had still been using the pool at Whipps I am sure my AS would not be so bad.

“I go to a pool in Mile End when I can get a lift but I can’t afford to get a taxi and it is impossible for me to use public transport.

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“I am very worried about the future. If I become housebound who is going to look after my mother and aunt?”

Symptoms of AS, an arthritis of the spine, include muscle stiffness, pain and swelling which can be improved by regular exercise in warm water.

Peter Stanley says although he now does exercises at home, it does not have the same effect on his muscles and joints as water-based movements would.

The 66-year-old of Woodford Green said: “I go to a pool in Loughton but the temperature is not as high as Whipps and that means it does not benefit my health as much.

“My doctor has recommended anti TNF drugs which will cost £3,000 on the NHS and have side effects.

“When you consider the cost of the drugs it is not economical to close the pool – it’s a laugh really.”

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The hydrotherapy pool at Whipps Cross Hospital closed in June.

Fellow campaigner Andrea Herbert, 49, said being forced to travel to Mile End for hydrotherapy sessions is taking a toll on her health.

“I am saddened and very upset about the closure because I now have chronic pain which is hard to cope with on a day to day basis,” said Ms Herbert of Gants Hill.

“Going to the pool meant I was able to stand and walk and keep supple and now I am struggling to cope.

“I have been quite poorly since it closed.

“I go to Mile End but it is quite a difficult journey. It takes me an hour and I have to take two trains and navigate 44 steps.”

A spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust said: "A small group of local people previously used the pool at Whipps Cross once a week but this was a private arrangement, not an NHS service.

“Even though they do not use the pool on the NHS, we know it has been of great value to them, which is why we have given free access to the hydrotherapy pool at Mile End Hospital while we continue to meet and support them to locate a suitable long-term alternative to use privately.

"We can better utilise the space to benefit thousands of women and babies by building a dedicated facility including a link between the maternity unit and main hospital to transport patients in emergencies, replacing the current process where women are transported across the site by ambulance.

“We still make sure patients have access to high quality NHS physiotherapy to manage various health conditions, with all patients able to access land based physiotherapy at Whipps Cross and use our hydrotherapy pool at Mile End Hospital."