Western Sussex Hospitals have joined up with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals to form a new NHS Foundation Trust for our area: University Hospitals Sussex.

You can keep using this website for information about St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands hospitals but for our other sites and to find out more about the new trust please visit www.uhsussex.nhs.uk.

About the unit

The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit (HMU) is a modified Royal Navy recompression chamber and can be pressurised to an equivalent depth of 85 metres below sea level.

Pressure meter (image by vierdrie http://www.freeimages.com/photo/487822)

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 HMU at St Richard’s Hospital 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.

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.

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

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.

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