Thursday, January 19, 2006

UK Chamber Under Threat of Closure

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See also related web site on Diving Medicine Online at .

Scapa Flow chamber under threat

Dr John A.S. Ross, consultant for NHS Grampian and a senior lecturer in hyperbaric medicine at The University of Aberdeen, contacted DIVE Magazine to express concern that Orkney Health Board could withdraw financial support for the doctors who staff the chamber. Apparently, a cost-cutting exercise in Orkney has lead to fears that Scapa Flow’s recompression service may be compromised. The chamber in Stromness is seen as an important safety facility for the 4,000 divers who visit Scapa each year.

‘If local medical support is withdrawn, there is a chance that people who get symptoms after diving – and who don’t really have decompression sickness – will have to fly to Aberdeen for assessment,’ Dr Ross said. ‘As it is, anyone with symptoms can be seen at Stromness and evaluated there.

‘I’m concerned that if divers are faced with a flight to the chamber in Aberdeen, they may not come forward for immediate assessment and those who actually have decompression sickness may miss out on the important early treatment.’

A spokesman for Orkney’s NHS service said it had to address a £300,000 deficit, and that ‘efficiencies’ in the hyperbaric service were one of many possible routes being investigated. ‘This is a review of clinical needs,’ said the authority’s medical director, Dr Rosaleen Beattie. ‘We must have appropriate services for diving medicine, and we will definitely have to continue to provide an appropriate service.

‘There are issues that need to be ironed out… There is a recognisable risk, and if we have 4,000 visiting divers, plus locals and commercial divers, then we should expect at least 40 accidents each year and we need appropriate services.’

The issue was due to be discussed at an NHS Orkney meeting in January.