Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the delivery of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure and has been used for many years to treat decompression illness (the bends), typically suffered in diving accidents.
It is now also recognised as a very successful therapy for many other conditions, particularly when used in conjunction with other medical and surgical interventions.
The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) is registered with the Care Quality Commission. It can treat emergency and non-emergency patients for the NHS, and patients referred under other arrangements.
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, a paramedic and two hyperbaric nurses.
The Ministry of Defence funds the provision of the service in support of military diving, and medical officers with hyperbaric expertise are supplied by the Institute of Naval Medicine.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust provides support services to the HMU, including the intensive care unit and other medical specialties needed to look after patients between treatments.
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.