At Work: Partnerships - Compact in action - MS Society and Sandbach PCT

Casper van Vark

The local Compact's premises code meant more people could use a hydrotherapy pool.

The project

The MS Society in south-east Cheshire was keen to find a way for people with multiple sclerosis to have hydrotherapy to relieve their symptoms.

The charity didn't have the facilities itself, but knew that the Primary Care Trust in Sandbach did. In fact, it had a hydrotherapy centre that was being underused.

"It was a new medical centre with a hydrotherapy pool," says Fiona Cooper, Compact development worker for the Congleton local Compact. "But the funding stream meant the pool was available only for people with learning difficulties. As a result, it was being used only three days a week. That was a shame, because people with MS benefit from hydrotherapy."

The action

Unusually, the Congleton local Compact, which was launched in January last year, includes a code on the use of premises. Cooper, who has been in her post for three years, helped to write the document, arranged meetings between the voluntary and statutory sectors and researched the issues that affected both sectors.

"We took our Compact back to the grass roots," she says. "As a result, it doesn't follow a standard format. We have the standard codes on funding and volunteering, but we also have codes on training, premises and transportation."

The MS Society was able to use the premises code to work with the PCT to come up with a contract that gave the charity access to the hydrotherapy pool for weekly sessions.

"This arrangement would never have happened without the Compact, which opened up those channels of conversation," says Cooper. "The voluntary sector wouldn't have approached the PCT in this way before - there wouldn't have been this dialogue."

The outcome

Since the contract was drawn up, people with MS have been able to use the pool for weekly 30-minute sessions, paying £3 a time. Previously, people with MS in this area had no access to hydrotherapy.

Sue Meaney, one of those to benefit, says: "Exercises in the hydrotherapy pool enable me to move in a way I wouldn't normally be able to because the warm water takes the strain - it's such a good feeling."

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