Lady Harris returns to Harris-Wellbeing Preterm Birth Research Centre

L-R Jeremy Barratt (Wellbeing of Women), Juhi Gupta (Harris-Wellbeing), Dr Angharad Care (Harris-Wellbeing), Lady Harris, Professor Zarko Alfirevic (Harris-Wellbeing), Janet Lindsay (Wellbeing of Women), Dr Sarah Arrowsmith (Harris-Wellbeing), Dr Laura Goodfellow (Harris-Wellbeing)

Lady Harris returned to Liverpool this month (10 July 2019) to see how a Harris-Wellbeing research grant worth £1 million and awarded in 2014 continues to help preterm babies and their mothers today.

The generous donation from Lord and Lady Harris of Peckham, who have supported the Wellbeing of Women charity for 30 years, established the Harris-Wellbeing Preterm Birth Research Centre at the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust in 2015.

The grant has funded preterm birth research, support for pregnant women and families, and public education about preterm birth for five years. Lady Harris met with staff and families whose lives have been changed thanks to the Centre’s programme of research to improve understanding of the causes of preterm birth and what can be done to prevent it.

During the visit Lady Harris met with patients being monitored for twin births at the Fetal Medicine Unit, a clinic run by Dr Andrew Sharp, Professor Alfirevic, the Clinic Manager (Jackie Holian) and Midwives (Claire Coonan and Jennifer Robinson).

Following this, two members of the Centre’s Public Involvement / Engagement Group (PPIE), which consists of women and families who have used Centre’s services, met with Lady Harris. Joanne Johnson and Emily Benbow spoke about the Centre’s in-clinic and online support services, such as the Harris-Wellbeing Peer Support Closed Facebook group for those with direct experience of preterm birth.

Research programme

Researchers from the Centre gave brief presentations about their achievements since the last visit and their research and its impact to date. They also provided details of ongoing collaborations and soon-to-be published research findings.

Finally, a number of nurses and midwives in the Neonatal Unit updated Lady Harris on the Trust’s new building project, the Low Dependency Baby Unit, and the new on-site parent accommodation.

Professor Alfirevic, said: “We were delighted to welcome our donor Lady Harris once again to the Harris-Wellbeing Preterm Birth Centre to meet the staff and families whose lives have been changed by our support. Our goal at the Centre is to help develop a personalised approach to risk assessment for women who are pregnant and have had preterm birth in a previous pregnancy. We also need a personalised approach to effective and safe treatments.

“During the visit we were proud to introduce Lady Harris to the researchers and staff helping us to achieve these goals and provide an update on our ongoing research projects.”

Vital support

Janet Lindsay, Chief Executive – Wellbeing of Women, said: “60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year; many of these babies don’t survive, and those that do are often left with life-long disabilities. That is why investing in research in this area is so vital. We are incredibly grateful for Lord and Lady Harris’ continued support for the prevention and treatment of premature birth. The Harris-Wellbeing Centre has saved the lives of hundreds of precious babies and positively impacted hundreds of families. It was an honour to hear about the pioneering work, and meet with the patients whose lives have been changed.”

Families also attended from Little Heartbeats, an organisation who want to raise awareness of preterm prelabour rupture of membranes. With input from Little Heartbeats, Harris Preterm Birth Centre researchers will be collaborating with the UK Obstetric surveillance survey (UKOSS) to conduct a UK-wide survey of pregnancies with very early rupture of membranes later this year.

For more information about the centre can be found here. 

L-R Lady Harris, Annabelle Benbow (daughter of a Peer Support Volunteer) and Professor Zarko Alfirevic