Public Consultation on NHS England Plans to Cut Funding For Two Hyperbaric Chambers

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The NHS currently provides funding for ten hyperbaric chambers in England, and NHS England, the body responsible for contracting their serivces, wishes to cut funding from two of them, stating that 'this service is currently over provided, at an unnecessary cost to taxpayers, and therefore [NHS England] propose to reduce the number of commissioned providers from ten to eight.' A public consultation is currently underway.

As divers will know, hyperbaric chambers (also called decompression or recompression chambers) are of paramount importance when treating decompression illness (DCI), a term which covers decompression sickness (DCS, also known as the bends), and other pressure related injuries such as arterial gas embolisms, often the result of a ruptured lung.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) – the procedure which places the patient in a high pressure, pure oxygen environment – is urgently required after a diver is diagnosed with suspected DCI. Time is a crucial factor in preventing serious injury or death as a result of hyperbaric trauma.

HBOT is also used in the treatment of other injuries – such as burns victims, for example – however the consultation guidelines read that although HBOT has 'some other applications in treating a range of injuries, there is not conclusive evidence of the efficacy of these applications, and the evidence for these are currently under review through the NHS England policy process.'

The 10 chambers contracted to the NHS throughout England (as listed in the 2013 consultation document, p.14) are at the following locations:

  • North West Emergency Recompression Unit, Murrayfield Hospital (Wirral, Merseyside)
  • Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC Healthcare), Plymouth, Devon
  • The Diver Clinic / Poole Hyperbaric Centre, Poole, Dorset 
  • The Diver Clinic / Reading, Berkshire
  • Chichester Hyperbaric Unit, St Richard's Hospital, Chichester, West Sussex
  • London Diving Chamber,  Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, St John's Wood, London
  • Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS-Trust Hyperbaric Unit, Leytonstone, London
  • James Paget Hospital Hyperbaric Chamber, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk 
  • North of England Medical Hyperbaric, Spire Hopsital, Hull, Yorkshire
  • Midlands Diving Chamber, Wealdstone, Middlesex

The proposal is targeting two of the chambers in the south of England, claiming that two in London and four in the rest of the south is too many and that 'to ensure patients are within reach of an HBOT centre when required in an emergency, NHS England believes that fewer centres are required in London & the south.'

The proposal is open to public consultation, and therefore UK divers are encouraged to give their opinion on the consultation website, where you can find the consultation survey. An overview of the proposal can be found at this link and further information from a similar consultation in 2013 can be found here.

The consultation closes on 14 February 2018



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