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How can I access hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy sessions are available on the NHS, and most hospitals have access to hydrotherapy pools. Any member of the healthcare team should be able to refer you to an NHS physiotherapist if they think you might benefit from hydrotherapy. In some parts of the UK you can also refer yourself to a physiotherapist, who’ll assess whether hydrotherapy would be suitable for you. Check with your GP or call your local rheumatology department to find out if an NHS physiotherapist in your area will accept self-referrals.

You can also choose to use private healthcare, but it’s important to be aware that in rare instances private hydrotherapy may be unregulated, and so the quality of the changing areas, the water or general environment can vary enormously. Check before your treatment starts that you’re happy with the facility. A qualified physiotherapist will be registered with the Health Professionals Council (HPC), and it’s recommended that you see someone who’s a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) and who’s accredited by the Aquatic Therapy of Chartered Physiotherapists (ATACP).

Before you start hydrotherapy, you’ll be seen by the physiotherapist in your hospital’s physiotherapy department, on the hospital ward or possibly in the physiotherapist’s own surgery. They’ll ask about your general health and your arthritis, and assess your individual needs. Using this information and the information provided by your doctor, the physiotherapist will advise on whether hydrotherapy is appropriate for you. This initial assessment normally takes about 30–45 minutes.

A course of hydrotherapy usually involves five or six 30-minute sessions. Not all physiotherapy departments have a hydrotherapy pool, so you may have to travel to another hospital.

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