RCN backs campaign to publicly honour IVF nurse pioneer

Jean Purdy, whose groundbreaking work helped lead to the birth of the world’s first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, was left off three plaques at the Royal Oldham Hospital, which honoured the innovators of IVF.

“It’s vital to ensure the incredible contributions of nurses throughout history are acknowledgeded ”

Dame Donna Kinnair

Oldham Council’s cabinet member for health and social care, Zahid Chauhan, has been campaigning for the hospital to recognise Ms Purdy after it came to light earlier this month that she had been snubbed. 

This week, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, Dame Donna Kinnair, wrote to Mr Chauhan in support of his drive. 

In her letter, Dame Donna said: “I am writing to express my strong support for your campaign to have Jean Purdy and her achievements in the field of IVF publicly recognised.

“Nurses are fundamental not just in providing personal care, but in driving forward new approaches to healthcare that benefit everyone,” she wrote.

“Jean Purdy was an innovator, a scientist and a nurse who helped develop a treatment that has had an impact across the world,” she said. “She should never be forgotten.”

The campaign comes after it was discovered that biologist and physiologist, Robert Edwards, and obstetrician and gynaecologist, Patrick Steptoe, who worked with Ms Purdy to develop IVF, are cited on the plaques that have been in place at the hospital for 39 years, whilst her name is omitted.

Dame Donna continued: “In addition to challenging outdated perceptions of nursing in the here and now, I agree with you that it’s vital to ensure that the incredible contributions of nurses throughout history are also understood and acknowledged.”

She said the RCN was “committed” to protecting and promoting the reputation of nurses past and present.

Chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, has also backed Mr Chauhan’s campaign.