Council and Hospital honour nurses involved in historic birth of world’s first IVF baby

Oldham Council and Oldham Care Organisation have unveiled a new commemorative plaque at The Royal Oldham Hospital to honour two nurses who played pivotal roles in the birth of the first IVF baby.

Louise Brown is the world’s first in-vitro fertilised (IVF) baby – born at The Royal Oldham Hospital on 25 July 1978, exactly 30 years after the NHS was created.

The two nurses did not have their names engraved on the original plaque installed over 40 years ago, and the hospital and Council wanted to put the record straight and shine a light on the whole team involved in this historic medical breakthrough.

David Jago, Chief Officer at Oldham Care Organisation, which runs The Royal Oldham Hospital, has worked with Cllr Zahid Chauhan, Oldham Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health, to formally recognise everyone involved.

Cllr Chauhan first brought the issue to light after being made aware of the two nurse’s contributions. He then vowed to ensure they would get a formal acknowledgment for their work.

David said:

“We are immensely proud of The Royal Oldham Hospital’s heritage and the significant contribution the hospital has played in providing local healthcare to the families and communities of Oldham borough and neighbouring areas since the NHS was created.

“Everyone would fully recognise that IVF was a ground-breaking contribution to medical science and has helped hundreds of thousands of couples and families across the world since.

“We have installed this commemorative plaque to recognise not only the crucial role that Jean Purdy played but also that of Sister Muriel Harris, and to ensure our history is not forgotten.”

Cllr Chauhan said:

“I’m proud that we can fully recognise the contributions of Ms Purdy and Sister Harris to this major medical milestone. Their vital work should be properly remembered.

“IVF treatment has changed many lives so it’s only right that all of those involved in its pioneering development get the recognition they fully deserve, right here in Oldham.

“A big thank you to everyone who’s supported the campaign to correct this historic injustice. I’m glad that as we approach International Women’s Day on Wednesday 9 March this week, we can finally get this plaque up in their honour.

Jean Purdy was a nurse embryologist and Sister Muriel Harris was an operating theatre superintendent, both of whom played a significant part in the development of IVF and the birth of Louise Brown. Both worked alongside and closely with biologist and physiologist Dr Robert Edwards and obstetrician and gynaecologist Mr Patrick Steptoe on this historic achievement in medical science.

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