Oxygen supply first at Charing Cross Hospital

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has recently developed an innovative way of supplying oxygen at Charing Cross Hospital in London in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In what is believed to be a first for UK mainland hospitals, the Trust utilised specialist contractors to implement the new oxygen concentrator plant in record time. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to bite, Charing Cross Hospital, like many other hospitals, was facing unprecedented oxygen demands, which the existing medical gas plant could not meet. Shane King, the Trust’s head of Estates Operations (pictured), initially looked at upgrading the site’s existing vacuum insulated evaporators (VIEs – oxygen storage vessels), or purchasing new such units However, owing to the extraordinary national demand, none were available at short notice. 

Supported by Ron Bryant from ETA Projects, he thus instructed SHJ Hospital Pipelines, the hospital’s long-standing medical gas pipeline contractor, to procure an oxygen concentrator plant. A concentrator generates oxygen from the ambient air, whereas a VIE utilises stored liquid oxygen. Although common overseas, concentrators had never been used in a UK mainland hospital before.

The team began sourcing all the plant, pipelines, and electrical supplies required, at the beginning of April. The plant was housed in shipping containers installed in the hospital car park, a technique SHJ has used at other hospitals to offer a speedy and flexible way of getting new systems up and running fast. Working around the clock, seven days a week, engineers were able to begin Quality Control pharmaceutical testing less than four weeks later. On the last day of April, final testing verified that oxygen production met the requirements of European Pharmacopeia Monograph 2455 and ISO 10083 for Oxygen 93 (oxygen purity of 93% +/- 3%). The new system went into service at 4 pm that day.

SHJ said: “There has been considerable subsequent interest in the innovative approach taken at Charing Cross Hospital from other NHS Trusts, as hospitals look to upgrade their oxygen delivery mechanisms at this extraordinary time.” Shane King added: “A considerable quantity of specialist engineering services have been installed in a very short time, with much of the plant sited adjacent to occupied and operational patient areas. This has been achieved through innovative working practices, with minimum disruption to services or impact on patients, and is a credit to the ‘can-do attitude’ of those involved, who have delivered the project against very tight time deadlines.”