Bourn Hall Clinic

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Bourn Hall Clinic

Bourn Hall Clinic in Bourn, Cambridgeshire, UK, is a centre for the treatment of infertility. The original building, Bourn Hall, is about 400 years old. Since becoming a medical centre, it has been greatly extended.


Bourn Hall Clinic was founded in 1980 by IVF pioneers Mr Patrick Steptoe, embryologist Jean Purdy and Professor Robert Edwards, who were responsible for the conception of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF or test-tube baby in 1977.[1] Since its foundation the clinic has assisted in the conception of over 10,000 babies.

Following the death of Patrick Steptoe in 1988, Peter Brinsden was appointed Medical Director in March 1989.

Bourn Hall Clinic is one of five fertility centres selected by the NHS East of England Specialised Commissioning Group to provide treatment to patients in the region. As of 1 May 2009, childless couples in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire will be able to access up to three cycles of IVF, plus a further three frozen embryo transfers.[2][3]

A breakthrough that occurred in Bourn Hall’s early days was the application of cryobiology to IVF, allowed embryos to be frozen for transfer at a later date. The first "frozen babies" were born in 1984. Bourn Hall also led the way in offering in vitro fertilisation surrogacy. They treated the first couple in the United Kingdom in 1988 and the first IVF surrogacy child was born in 1989.[4]

The world’s first baby born as a result of directly injecting a single sperm into the centre of an oocyte was conceived at Bourn Hall. Since this birth in 1992 "intracytoplasmic sperm injection" or ICSI has been adopted by IVF clinics around the world.

More recently, Bourn Hall pioneered the use of blastocyst culture, where the embryo is grown for up to five days prior to implantation. This increases the chances of IVF success.[5]

In 2009, Bourn Hall acquired the former ISIS Fertility Centre in Colchester, Essex which has enabled more convenient access to both NHS and self funded fertility treatments for patients from the Essex and Suffolk regions.[6]

In 2010 Bourn Hall Clinic celebrated the award of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to co-founder Professor Robert Edwards.

A plaque was unveiled at the Clinic in July 2013 by Louise Brown and Alastair MacDonald - the world's first IVF baby boy - commemorating Steptoe and Edwards.[7][8] The plaque missed out Jean Purdy who had been the person who chose Bourn Hall, was a co-founder of the clinic and an equal partner in developing IVF. In 2018, to mark the 40th anniversary of IVF, the clinic unveiled an additional memorial to Jean Purdy, the "world's first IVF nurse and embryologist. Co-founder of Bourn Hall Clinic".[9]

The current Medical Director, appointed in 2006, is Dr Thomas Mathews MD FRCOG.[citation needed]


In March 2008 the British press reported the case of a woman who forged her estranged husband's signature on a consent form for IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic to use frozen embryos that the couple had created together. The woman then went on to have two children without her husband's knowledge or consent. Fertility clinics, by law, must obtain written consent from the male in a relationship, but do not require him to attend the clinic in person. The man only found out that he was a father when one of the children became seriously ill and he was contacted by a relative.

The husband sought legal advice concerning the matter[10] but Bourn Hall was not found to be liable. The law has since changed to require photographic identification as well as a signature to ensure that the man authorising the use of frozen embryos is indeed the father.[11]


  1. ^ Johnson, M. H.; Franklin, S. B.; Cottingham, M.; Hopwood, N. (2010). "Why the Medical Research Council refused Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe support for research on human conception in 1971". Human Reproduction. 25 (9): 2157–74. doi:10.1093/humrep/deq155. PMC 2922998. PMID 20657027.
  2. ^ "Increase in NHS funded IVF treatment and choice for couples in the East of England:Implementation from May 2009" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Pledge on free NHS IVF treatment". BBC News Online. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  4. ^ Brinsden, Peter; Tim C Appleton; Elizabeth Murray; Mohammed Hussein; Fidelis Akagbosu; Samuel F Marcus (2000). "Treatment by in vitro fertilisation with surrogacy: experience of one British centre". British Medical Journal. 320: 924–928. doi:10.1136/bmj.320.7239.924.
  5. ^ "Success rates".
  6. ^ "Bourn Hall Colchester".
  7. ^ Kendall, Ben (26 July 2013). "World's first test-tube baby hails pioneers on 35th birthday". Oldham Chronicle. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  8. ^ "35 years of IVF celebrated by the first 'test-tube' baby at Bourn Hall Clinic". Bourn Hall Clinic. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  9. ^ "ITV News". ITV Report. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  10. ^ The Sunday Times, 2 March 2008
  11. ^ "HEFA code of practice". Archived from the original on 2011-02-10. Retrieved 18 May 2011.

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Coordinates: 52°11′18″N 0°04′03″W / 52.18847°N 0.06758°W / 52.18847; -0.06758