British scuba divers are urgently being called upon to share their views in a review of hyperbaric oxygen chambers by NHS England.
A 30 day public consultation has been launched by NHS England to review Hyperbaric Oxygen Services which closes on 14 February, 2018.
The organisation believes that this service is currently over provided at an unnecessary cost to tax payers, and is proposing to cut down the number of chambers from ten to eight.
Referred to by the NHS as the ‘HBOT service,’ it provides the ‘delivery of oxygen at a
pressure greater than normal (greater than 100 kPa) so that a higher level of oxygen
can be dissolved in the patient’s blood plasma.’ This takes place within a treatment chamber.
It is the only treatment available for decompression illness, a condition that divers are at risk of developing. Divers with suspected decompression illness need urgent access to these chambers.
On average 300 divers each year need to be treated for suspected decompression illness, and HBOT is the only treatment for this potentially fatal condition, so it is important that adequate coverage across the country for emergencies is still provided.
According to the consultation guide, divers ideally need to be seen within two hours of the onset of symptoms, for the best possible health outcomes, and therefore the aim is to ensure that wherever someone is in England they could be transported to a facility within two hours, including air ambulance access times.
The document states that there are currently more centres in the south of the country than are required for coverage across the region – with two centres in London and a further four centres across the south. 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 and the south.
Not just beneficial to divers, the HBOT ‘also has some other applications in treating a range of injuries, however there is not conclusive evidence of the efficacy of these applications,’ NHS England claims.
NHS England does not believe that reducing the number of hyperbaric oxygen facilities will impact on the emergency treatment of decompression illness.