The Harris Birthright Research Centre for IVF Reproductive Medicine in Sheffield, set up in 1986, worked on unexplained fertility. The centre was the biggest stimulus to reproductive medicine the UK had seen and focused on male infertility as well as female infertility which was relatively unusual at the time. Diana returned in 1991 to learn more about then recent breakthroughs in infertility research.
Founded in 1964, the name was changed to “Birthright” in 1972. Birthright and The National Fund for Childbirth Research reflects the national activities of the charity both in terms of fundraising and research. In April 1975, Birthright agreed to work in partnership with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to improve women’s health. Birthright then broadened its scope to include all aspects of obstetrics and gynaecology. The name was changed to Wellbeing in 2007.
In 1984, Professor Ian D. Cooke applied to Birthright, a national Charity, of which the late Diana, Princess of Wales was Patron, to fund his research.
The Department obtained a grant of £500,000 over 5 years setting up the Harris Birthright Research Unit for IVF Reproductive Medicine with a research clinic to investigate various unexplained aspects of infertility, hormone deficiencies, erratic follicle growth and related infertility problems. About 200 patients were treated in the first year.
In 1984, Sir Philip Harris and his wife, Pauline, seen below, invested in a total of 5 research centres around the UK as a way of better utilizing his donation to Birthright. The idea was that after the initial investment in the centres they would start to generate more money, therefore promoting the growth of whole areas of research. In total, Lord Harris invested £1.5 million, but the money generated since and the women and babies helped by the research are far greater than this sum.
On the same day, she also paid a visit to the Lodge Moor Hospital Spinal Injuries Unit in Sheffield which also had a sports hall for the disabled at the time. Diana toured the unit and met numerous patients and staff.
When she visited with patient and paraplegic power lifter Brian Stones, he asked her what she did for exercise. “I swim 20 lengths a day and go dancing,” she replied.
Below, in the sports hall of the hospital, Diana smiles as she gets a fencing lesson with patient Cyril Thomas, paraplegic champion of the foil and epee (sword) who had been injured in a mining accident 30 years prior.
The Lodge Moor Hospital was closed in 1994.