Anne Golland was Superintendent Physiotherapist at the Pump Rooms from 1966 until 1990.
Could you describe the layout of the place as you came through the front door?
As you came through the front door of the Pump Rooms, under the colonnades, on the right-hand side you had the spa manager’s office at one time. Latterly it was part of the tourist office. On the left you had the big room which was, when it was first built, was like an assembly room. During my time it was used as a restaurant and also for functions. And then you went down a bit further and you had your main corridor along which had all these little rooms that I was telling you about, individual treatments which latterly then you had the physio department and the gym on that side. On the right-hand side you had public ladies’ loos and little surgery and then our offices on the right, staff rooms, sewing room also on the right. And then upstairs we had slipper baths, which were in use when I first went there in 1964, but not for many years. That was because – I don’t know what the regulations were – but I think in about 1948 there was a regulation that each council was responsible for providing washing facilities for people who didn’t have bathrooms in their own homes and that was where our council’s facilities were, we had these great big baths, lashings of lovely hot water and people who didn’t have baths used to come in there. And that went on well into the seventies. But then latterly that was used, the public swimming pool people used that area, they put like a sauna up there so it was still open to the public for that. And then on, went down a level, on the left-hand side we had more staffrooms and the Turkish baths and the Vichy massage douche area and we had a wax bath down there as well, and the laundry on the right and our store rooms and a treatment room. And then you went through to the corridor which was common with the public baths and that’s where the ambulances came in that way. And then into the pool department proper where on the right we had about four vats for boiling the packs, the hot packs. And then beyond that a series of cupboards in which we kept the towelling, so there was always warm, dry towelling for the patients. And on the left-hand side, just lots of cubicles. There were, I think there were about thirty cubicles on the left-hand side. The first row were much wider and those were the ones for the ambulance patients on stretchers. And then we had, you know, the table where we organised things. Through past the cubicles you’re going towards the river now, and then the pool at the far end, it was twenty-six foot square, the pool. There was a shower and disinfectant tray at the top of the ramp, ramp down into the pool and on the right-hand side, four Vortex baths in little cubicles and loos at the far end. So that was – it’s quite a big department actually.
I’d already come from a spa in Bath and there were some similarities in the types of – I call them old-fashioned – spa type treatments that were given, but the general trend was moving away from them really because in those days the attitude in that kind of medicine was, I’m the patient, here I am, make me better and we were moving away from that for the patient to take more responsibility themselves and to be much more active in their treatments. So I was looking at the facilities at the Pump Rooms, which were absolutely fascinating, but there were some things that I did decide to change. If you – do you remember the Pump Rooms, there was a long corridor along there, lots of doors, and we had aerated saline baths, there was a Nauheim bath, there was a colonic irrigation suite which actually hadn’t been used for some time, and just round the corner we had – now what was it called – it was a single bath, like an aerated saline… it was the deep aeration pool, that’s what they called it, the deep aeration pool. And patients were segregated at that time. We had the big pool, what we called the big pool, which was the main treatment pool which was twenty-six foot square and if we had say, an ambulance load of patients from Coventry, there might have been eleven patients on, three men and eight ladies, and the three men were treated in the deep aeration pool and the eight ladies in the main pool. And the eight ladies in fact got a better treatment because they were able to walk in the water and do a full range of exercises, but you were limited in the deep aeration pool and I could see no reason for the segregation. So in fact we stopped using the deep aeration pool and all patients were treated in a more active way in the main pool. The Nauheim baths we never used in my time. It was, I think it was used for the treatment of high blood pressure and there was a cylinder of nitrogen I think, which was passed through the water in little bubbles and the actual action of the nitrogen bubbles bursting on the skin opened the capillaries and reduced your blood pressure. I found this fairly horrendous actually because there’s no check on it at all. So anyway, we didn’t use that. We also had a foam bath which was used for the treatment of obesity. And you filled the base of the – like a domestic bath, perhaps a bit bigger – you filled the base with hot water about 104 degrees Fahrenheit and then used a goo called Zotofoam and there was a special base to the bath which had fine holes in and you passed air through it, so you got hot bubbles of foam in which your patient was immersed up to their neck. So you were in fact raising their temperature to the temperature of the foam, which again I don’t think was terribly safe [laughs], but the point was that you increased the metabolic rate and by increasing the metabolic rate you were using more calories, therefore it might help towards reducing obesity. But I mean the thinking surely is now that the patient becomes a lot more active themselves and you watch their diet and things, so it was – alright, it was used but it was a very old-fashioned form and it was never used in my time. The aerated saline baths was a bit like your current day jacuzzis. Again, you control the temperature, about 96, 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and the patient just relaxed in the bubbly water and had a rest period afterwards.
Were the baths filled with spa water?
Some of them were partly spa water. The spa water came from a well that’s actually in the Jephson Gardens. It was pumped under the road through into the chlorifier [ph] house, purified and heated if necessary. But the problem with the spa water, firstly it was a bit irregular in that it had to be, obviously it was checked regularly for bacterial content and it did quite often get contaminated, so if there was any contamination then obviously it wasn’t used at all until you got a clear reading so it’s not something you could rely on. The other thing is, if you used a hundred per cent spa water in the pool for instance, it became quite green and cloudy and you couldn’t see the patient’s feet, which sounds a bit strange, but it’s quite important that you can see what your patient’s doing under the water.
In hydrotherapy we had a lot of, we called them hydrotherapy assistants, and physiotherapists supervising everything that went on, doing the initial assessment of the patient and skin tests and that sort of thing and then deciding on a suitable regime for that patient and then just supervising it. In the physio department it was generally only physios who worked in the physiotherapy department, but we had a hydrotherapy assistant working there as well who helped us with things like the hot packs, which was, we used fuller’s earth which were made up into a pack by our own domestic supervisor and it was applied to the patient – well it was boiled in like a Berco boiler and then taken out and put in several layers of towelling in a pocket in the end, so the pack was put in the pocket and lots of layers between the pack and the patient and it was the steam heat that came through to the patient. It was very soothing, absolutely smashing.
What would happen when a patient first arrived at the Pump Room?
If the patient was nervous and had been sent for hydrotherapy, the first thing you did was take them down there and show it to them, talk to them about it, because you did get people who said that they were terrified of water. And in all my time there I think I only met two who didn’t eventually manage to get in the water and enjoy it. There’s no point if you’ve got a person who’s absolutely terrified to then try and force them into the pool to do exercises. So go down, talk to them about it, show them, let them talk to somebody else who’s had treatment and usually they say alright, well I’ll have a go. And you did take great care of them from that point of view. There were two true hydrophobics I think that we had who couldn’t even get into the department. There’s no point. You just choose a different type of treatment for them in another department. When they come for their first appointment, the physio would assess the problem that they’ve come for. If they’d got stiff joints you would measure the joint ranges and things like that. If you thought they were going to need some heat somewhere you would check what we call the skin sensation for hot and cold, make sure they could tell the difference between hot and cold. So that if you gave them a hot pack they wouldn’t burn without realising. Explain to them what the treatment consisted of and that it was important they rested afterwards. If they were in the pool for the first time they just had a short time, explain that they may well be a bit more uncomfortable after the first treatment, because when you’re in the pool you’re warm, you’re relaxed, you start doing movements and you can usually – if it’s a stiff joint – you can usually get more movement than you have been getting in that joint and it’s going to complain afterwards. But if you explain to them that that’s why the increase, why they’ve got this increase in pain, because they’ve got a bit more movement, then they’ll accept that, that’s good. Because they’ve come because they’re stiff, so, and next time maybe a bit more movement still but you take it gradually to start with. Whereas if you gave them a full treatment to start with, you might well get full range movement back but they’d never come back again because they’d be in so much pain. It’s not worth it. So you try and start off steadily.
How long would an average course of treatment last?
It does vary. At one time it was a set six weeks, but it lasts until you’ve achieved as much as you possibly can. With that patient it might well be longer than that. But then towards the end we were getting very restricted – well the health authority really was saying, you must reduce the average number of treatments this patient’s receiving, so obviously you had to do that for financial reasons but it wasn’t satisfactory from a therapeutic point of view because you knew that if you went on a bit longer that patient would do better and stay away from you longer because you’d had a better result. What we did start doing, some years ago now, is sort of maintenance exercise classes in the evenings. When patients finished a course of treatment they were missing it, so we arranged – two or three of the staff were willing to do it - I think we did two or three nights a week, in the same pool and people would come as individuals not as patients and be in a class all together and all do general exercises in the pool as maintenance. It kept them going. That became a problem when the Pump Rooms closed down. All these people who were finding such benefit from therapy in the water, swimming pool is too cold for them, so we arranged, we went to Coventry actually, at Tile Hill. There’s a pool there which is used for disabled people and they agreed with us to raise the temperature a little bit for us and most of our people were transferred there, or had the option of going there for their exercises. That is still going on I’m delighted to say, one day a week at Tile Hill in Coventry, and some of the Coventry GPs are actually suggesting that their patients go there. They’re not going as patients, they’re going as individuals but getting benefit. The other thing in Leamington is Castel Froma, you know, Leamington Road. That has a nice pool and some of our people went there, still do. But as people, not patients.
There was a certain amount of pressure to increase the throughput of patients by instead of treating them individually you treated two or three together or even more together, which I wasn’t happy with, but we did it because I don’t think your results are as good if you have three patients being treated together as if you had individual attention. Sometimes it worked alright, but not always. And when you look at reducing costs and things, your major cost is always wages and salaries isn’t it, so I hated having to say to somebody – it didn’t happen often fortunately – that we had to reduce the number of staff that we had, so we did lose a couple.
Why didn't the Tansey Plan succeed?
I think the answer really is, there was a lot of ill feeling locally about it because of the fact that it was privately funded, but a lot of things these days are privately funded aren’t they, and still have, they still wanted to have access for health authority patients as well as everything else and it would have been a very good way of doing that. But it was a very unpopular scheme. I think we were ahead of our time actually, but it didn’t go ahead so…
Do you think that the council should have kept the Pump Rooms operating as a medical department in some way?
I think the council did very well by the Pump Rooms for very, very many years and supported us, but if they’d had to fund themselves any future development I think it was just not possible, which was why it was a shame that the offer of private funding couldn’t have been taken up. But I would never blame the council for not continuing with it, they did very well by us for many years, but it needed continued support obviously from the health authority, which we were not getting, and it would have been nice to have been able to move forward, still with the health authority, still treating patients on the National Health Service, but expanding the service to provide the complementary therapies that are now so popular. But there’s no point really, if you like, crying over spilt milk because the decisions were made and then they’ve, what they’re doing now with it, it’s just different, that’s all.
What sort of place was it like to work in, the Pump Room, what was the atmosphere like?
I think it was always a very friendly sort of atmosphere, people seemed to quite enjoy coming. We tried to keep it a relaxed sort of atmosphere where people could just enjoy coming as well as coming for the therapeutic side of it. But terribly old-fashioned, yes. I mean not easy to work in or anything. I’ve heard people say, how on earth do you manage to work in these awful situations, in this awful old building. You know, it was alright, it was fun really.