The early offshore and diving medical work in Great Yarmouth kicked off in August 1965 when one of the partners of Central Surgery in Gorleston-on-Sea, Dr. Michael Evans, was called off to a drilling ship when a driller had been felled by a falling pipe.
The first diving medical involvement arose in 1966 when Dr. Robin Cox, who was also a Partner in Central Surgery, was called to a diving accident in the West Sole Field. The North Sea Medical Centre (NSMC) was established in 1974 by the five existing Central Surgery Partners.
Until 1987 the Hyperbaric Chamber (a Twin-lock, Seagull 60″ unit), which now exists within the James Paget University Hospital, was owned and run by Bernie Stockton for the company Maritime Offshore Projects (MOP) and then his own company Seaweld Diving Services. Seaweld operated from a shed by the river on Southtown Road. Bernie sold his business and the Chamber was bought by Stena Offshore who ran it on the Harfrey’s Industrial Estate from 1988 until they moved out of Great Yarmouth in 1996.
In 1987 when Dr. Thomas Pace joined the Medical team, Dr. Nick McIver was the lead diving medical figure for the unit and had gained an international reputation for his expertise. At that time the Surgery only received a small and inadequate retainer for all the hyperbaric work it carried out and a new contract was negotiated by Dr Pace and Dr. David Watson with the Regional Public Health Consultant (old terminology).
When Stena Offshore pulled out of Great Yarmouth another company endeavoured to take over the Chamber and the running of it but Dr. Pace saw an opportunity for the North Sea Medical Centre to take it over. One of his Partners, Andy Colvin, at Central Surgery was also undertaking training in Occupational Medicine under Dr. Pace’s direction through the North Sea Medical Centre and it was decided to involve him in the deal and the Chamber was ultimately purchased for a ‘peppercorn’ from Stena. Mike Pollard was the James Paget Hospital Chief Executive at the time and David Hill the Director of Finance. They both agreed that the service could be moved into the James Paget Hospital and provided the real estate and installation costs. Since that date the income has been jointly run by the North Sea Medical Centre and the James Paget Hospital.
The Hyperbaric Facility at Great Yarmouth was a founder member of the British Isles Group of Hyperbaric Therapists, formed in 1990 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. In 1993 the group was renamed the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA) and the medical Team at Great Yarmouth were actively involved in drawing up the constitution of the BHA. The unit achieved the status of a Category 1 BHA facility and working in close cooperation with the Trust saw a varied caseload of mainly emergency referrals, including ITU cases, from all over the east of England. Carbon monoxide poisoning, anaerobic infections and threatened plastic surgery wound flaps are regularly treated in addition to the usual number of divers with decompression sickness. All other conditions recognised by the European Underwater and Baro-medical Society are catered for.
Dr. Nick McIver became the Chamber Director and Dr. Andy Colvin his Deputy. Phil Smith of NSMC was appointed manager of the unit. When Dr. McIver retired in 2000, Dr. Pace appointed Dr. Colvin as Director and became Deputy Director himself. Dr. Colvin left the Practice in August 2002 at which time Dr. Pace assumed the Directorship. Dr. Bob Mann, with the assistance of Dr. Thinus Mostert and Matron Smalley, did a mammoth task to set the standards for the Category 1 facility.
In 2005 the North Sea Medical Centre and its assets, which included the Hyperbaric Chamber, was sold to Abermed Ltd., an Aberdeen-based company specialising in Occupational Health Medicine. In 2006 discussions between the James Paget University Hospital and Abermed Ltd. over the long-term development of the service culminated in the Chamber and service being purchased by London Hyperbaric and Wound Healing Centres Ltd.
As from 1st February 2007 the Hyperbaric Service at JPUH is being re-provided by London Hyperbaric and Wound Healing Centres Ltd in the framework of a Private Public Partnership with James Paget University Hospital NHS-Trust. Dr. Pieter Bothma, currently head of the Dept. of Anaesthetics within the Trust, is currently the Medical Director of the unit and Phil Sayers is the Managing Director. The medical cover is given by several hyperbaric trained Anaesthetists, A&E consultants, and some of the original Occupational health specialists. The diversity of expertise allows the whole spectrum of hyperbaric medicine to be practiced and that includes caring for critically ill patients. The new state of the art chamber that has been ordered will make this easier and safer.
On 18th December 2007 the old 54″ Seagull Diver recompression chamber was finally decommissioned and removed from the hospital for transport to Holland.The Chamber is currently being refurbished and will hopefully enjoy many years of continued use in the treatment of divers somewhere on a tropical diving resort.
|Entrance to our old chamber|
|Inside our old chamber|