History of DDRC

Once upon a time (in 1980) the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) was born, to help support the diving community. We've come a long way since then.

The History Behind ‘DDRC’

The major organisation that now operates from two sites in the UK and works with people across the world, has a history of  humble beginnings. There are still a few members of staff working here who remember how it all began, next to the sea off the coast of Plymouth in a draughty boat shed at Fort Bovisand.

Our journey has been an interesting and incremental one, taken forward by many dedicated and motivated staff, with essential support from the diving community and multiple key organisations and individuals.

Our charitable aims and objectives have remained constant, but the scope of our activities continues to evolve as we look ahead to exciting new possibilities working in collaboration with others. Like all effective organisations, we have had to change over time in order to best meet the needs of our patients and clients.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those individuals and organisations who have supported us and our work, along the way.


The Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) began in a small converted boat shed at the Fort Bovisand diving school in Plymouth. It was run by volunteers as a facility to treat divers with decompression illness (DCI), commonly known as ‘the bends’.

In 1980 DDRC was registered as a charity with a remit to research the effects of the undersea environment on human physiology and to use that information to educate divers. Later those charitable objectives were extended to the wider use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and the inclusion of training.


DDRC had outgrown the boat shed and moved to a purpose built site, adjacent to the city’s major hospital.

The Hyperbaric Medical Centre was the first occupant of the now extensive Plymouth Science Park. The new facility was a two storey building able to treat more patients and included research and training facilities.

The two original Comex chambers from Fort Bovisand were installed, joined by a new larger Krug multi-chamber funded by public support.


Our first trading subsidiary was created, DDRC Professional Services Ltd, allowing us to provide training and professional consultancy services which fell outside our charitable remit.

This wholly owned trading subsidiary gifts any surpluses generated back to the charity to deliver our charitable work.


The South Wales Hyperbaric Medical Unit was set up with a single mono-place chamber in St Joseph’s Hospital in Newport.

After two years demand had increased to such a level that the unit needed to expand. This meant a relocation in 2010 to Spire Hospital Cardiff and the addition of a second mono-place chamber, expanding provision for hyperbaric oxygen therapy in South Wales and the West of England. This unit is led by our highly skilled, specialist nurses, supported by our wider clinical team.

Unfortunately we no longer work out of Cardiff.


A second trading subsidiary, Plymouth Wound Care (now DDRC Wound Care) was created in 2011 and launched in 2012, enabling us to use our specialist skills to bring wound care treatment to patients with difficult to heal wounds.

This service does not use hyperbaric medicine, but does use the knowledge and experience of our Tissue Viability Nurses.

Work is ongoing to bring this service within NHS funding.

Unfortunately in 2022 this service had to close. We no longer offer a specialist wound care service.


The width of services now being offered and the changing environment within which we were working led to the change of name from ‘Diving Diseases Research Centre)’ to ‘DDRC Healthcare’.

It was felt important to acknowledge and build on our history, but to ensure the organisation remained relevant to the new context.

2020 (40th anniversary) onwards

After many years of planning in 2021 DDRC expanded their facilities to accommodate new lecture theatre and teaching rooms. It also houses the University of Plymouth’s brand new human neuroimaging facility (the Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC).

This collaboration represents an important commitment to advancing excellence in research, healthcare and education in Plymouth. It consolidates DDRC healthcare’s close working relationship with the University of Plymouth and the NHS locally through UPHNT.