The Hyperbaric Unit at Whipps Cross Hospital was the first department of its kind in London; and by the 1990s it was the last. It was established from the beginning as part of the National Health Service.
The Hyperbaric Unit was founded in 1965, as a research facility for Vickers, using the first monoplace chamber produced by them for clinical use. This chamber remained in clinical service until 1992, when it was sold to the Wellcome Foundation as a piece of medical equipment history. The oxygen for the department was initially supplied from cylinders which were carried on trolleys pushed around the hospital by trainee anaesthetists.
The original “Lotus” Chamber purchased in the late 1960s. Now in the British Museum.
The second monoplace chamber (a “Lotus” bed) was installed in the late 1960s by public subscription from the residents of Walthamstow. This followed the successful treatment of a professional dancer, whose leg had been crushed in a road traffic accident.
The first Medical Director was Dr. Ken Slack, a Consultant Anaesthetist; and the first research fellow was Dr. Gillian Hanson, a Physician who went on to establish the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Together with Dr. Bill Chew and Dr. David Thomas (both trainee anaesthetists at the time), they published pioneering work on the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen in clostridial myonecrosis and refractory osteomyelitis. The department was also one of the centres for a multi-centre trial into the management of multiple sclerosis in the 1980s; however, it is no longer used for this application.
Vickers Monoplace Chamber Nr. 001. The first chamber ever manufactured by Vickers UK for hyperbaric use. Built in 1965, last used in 1998, now in the British museum.
In 1988, contact was made with the Guy’s Hospital Poisons Unit and the Institute of Naval Medicine; and by 1994, Whipps Cross Hospital was the busiest single referral centre for emergency hyperbaric oxygen treatment in the UK. The department was also used after 1988 for a variety of elective referrals from throughout the southeast of England.
In 1992, the Whipps Cross Hospital Hyperbaric Unit became the first to use a standard dataset for treating carbon monoxide poisoning; and a national audit followed.
The department held the Chair of the British Hyperbaric Association between 1992 and 1994. During this time, the Association introduced its national gazetteer of hyperbaric services, wrote its Core Curriculum for training and education of hyperbaric facility personnel, and drafted a Royal College of Physicians report on guidelines for good practice in Hyperbaric Medicine. The evolution of the Hyperbaric Unit into London Hyperbaric Medicine Ltd., in partnership with Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust was a natural step, through which the service has come to realise its full potential.
In September 2002 after a European tendering procedure lasting 18 months the contract for a Private Public Partnership (PPP) / Private Finance Initiave (PFI) with the Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS-Trust was awarded to Sayers Hyperbaric & Diving Systems.
Construction of the modular prefabricated building commenced in October 2000 in Bremen – Germany, and the whole unit together with the pre-fitted Therapy Chamber arrived at the hospital on the 30th January 2001. The bulding was assembled by the Feb. 6th and the Hyperbaric Chamber System comissioned on March 21st. London Hyperbaric Medicine Ltd. treated its first patient on April 1st 2001.
Other important dates
1990 – Formation of British Isles Group of Hyperbaric Therapists – set up to promote the understanding and safe practice of Hyperbaric medicine, and to provide a forum for discussion of hyperbaric therapy practice in the British Isles
1993 – British Isles Group of Hyperbaric Therapists renamed the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA) and compilation of the constitution of the British Hyperbaric Association
1994 – Publication of BHA Fire Safety Report
1994 – Publication of Cox Report
Reference: Royal College of Physicians of London (Faculty of Occupational Medicine), A Code of Good Working Practice for the Operation and Staffing of Hyperbaric Chambers for Therapeutic Purposes (1994)
1995 – Publication of BHA Gazetteer
Reference: British Hyperbaric Association. Register of Member Chambers 2nd ed. (1998)
1996 – Publication of BHA Fire Safety Support
Reference: British Hyperbaric Association. Guide to Fire Safety Standards for Hyperbaric Treatment Centres. A Working Party Report (1996)
1996 – Publication of BHA Electrical Safety Report
Reference: British Hyperbaric Association. Guide to Electrical Safety Standards for Hyperbaric Treatment Centres. A Working Party Report (1996)
1998 – Fourth European Consensus Conference – London
Reference: European Committee for Hyperbaric Medicine. Consensus Conference on Hyperbaric Oxygen in the Treatment of Foot Lesions in Diabetic Patients (1998)
2005 – LHM hosted the BHA AGM and conference aboard HMS Belfast on the River Thames
2006 – LHM changed its name to London Hyperbaric and Wound Care Centre