Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the delivery of 100% oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure and has been used for many years to treat decompression illness (the bends), typically suffered in diving accidents.
The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) at St Richard’s is registered with the Care Quality Commission. It can treat emergency and non-emergency patients for the NHS.
It is a Category 1 facility and can take patients who need intensive care during the treatment.
The chamber is owned and operated by QinetiQ, who provide the unit’s medical director, technical staff, hyperbaric nurses and attendants, and some of the diving doctors.
The Ministry of Defence funds the provision of the service in support of military diving and doctors from the Institute of Naval Medicine participate in the rota for medical cover. The NHS funds treatment for decompression illness.
University Hospitals Sussex provides support services to the HMU, including the intensive care unit and other medical specialties needed to look after patients between treatments.
Recompression chamber facts and figures
- We have a Royal Navy Type A recompression chamber modified with an arched doorway into the main chamber to make access easier for patients
- There are two compartments – a 7m³ ‘man lock’ and 19m³ main chamber
- The chamber can accommodate five people sitting, two lying down or three sitting and one lying down
- Its maximum pressure setting is 8.5 bar – equivalent to a depth of 85 metres at sea
- The chamber’s environmental control system regulates its temperature and humidity and removes carbon dioxide
A modified Royal Navy recompression chamber and can be pressurised to an equivalent depth of 85 metres below sea level.
History of the HMU
Research into diving and decompression treatments began during the Second World War with the formation of the Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory (RNPL) at Alverstoke in Gosport.
The naval life support work of the RNPL led to the development of the HMU at Royal Haslar Hospital in Gosport. The unit moved to St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, in March 2010.
Contact the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit
If the patient is seriously unwell or deteriorating rapidly, inform the emergency services promptly by dialling 999 on land or VHF Channel 16 at sea.
In all other emergencies, contact your closest chamber. If the closest is Chichester, call the duty diving doctor on 01243 330096 (24 hrs). If there is no answer, call St Richard’s Hospital on 01243 788122 and ask for the duty diving doctor.
- At sea: Call the Coastguard, DSC or VHF Channel 16/Dial 999 (24 hrs).
- In England, Northern Ireland or Wales: If you do not know the location of your nearest BHA member chamber then please call the National Diving Accident Helpline on 07831 151523 (24 hrs).
- In Scotland: Call Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on 0845 408 6008 (24 hrs) – ask for the emergency hyperbaric doctor.