Our story

From a campaign that began in a spare cupboard in St Thomas’ Hospital, Tommy’s is now the largest UK charity researching the causes and prevention of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.

Tommy’s was founded in 1992 when two obstetricians at St Thomas’ Hospital in London - Dr Ian Fergusson and Dr Anthony Kenney - couldn't and wouldn't accept the lack of answers surrounding premature birth any longer. Together with one of their patients, Lucy Nelson, they decided to start a campaign raising money for pregnancy research projects. The campaign grew into Tommy’s charity.

  • From 1997–2021, we funded the UK’s first ever pregnancy research centre at St Thomas’ Hospital, focusing on pre-eclampsia and premature birth.
  • In 2001, we opened our Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester to tackle stillbirth and investigate the role of the placenta in pregnancy.
  • From 2008–2021, we funded the Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health in Edinburgh, looking at how stress on mothers from conditions such as diabetes and obesity can affect pregnancy.
  • In 2016, we went further still and opened Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, the largest of its kind in Europe. 
  • In 2024, we returned to our roots and opened Tommy's National Centre for Preterm Birth Research, which is dedicated to researching the causes and prevention of premature birth

We knew that research alone wasn’t going to reduce the numbers of babies who die; we had to actively support parents and channel our research into the best possible care and advice. So in 2002 we opened Tommy’s PregnancyLine, allowing women and their families to speak directly to our midwives and address their concerns. 

Our midwives are able to spot risks early and give callers the advice they need. They also help to develop and maintain our PregnancyHub. By offering expert advice on everything from baby movements to nutrition and exercise, the PregnancyHub empowers women to have healthier and safer pregnancies.

We concentrate on sharing our knowledge from our centres and implementing it across the NHS, so that every family can have access to the best possible care. To that end, Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement was founded in September 2019. This is an alliance between parents, midwives, doctors, the NHS and academic experts, to drive improvement in maternity services and save babies’ lives.

More about our founders

The Hon Mrs Lucy Nelson

The Hon Lucy Nelson, founder of Tommy's

Lucy was pregnant with her third daughter Eloise in 1988 when Ian Fergusson, her obstetrician, suggested that she might like to help start a campaign to fund research into why so many babies were born too soon and too small. This homemade campaign started with just a few collecting boxes and soon graduated to a broom cupboard in St. Thomas’ Hospital, eventually growing to become Tommy’s…and the rest is history.  

Lucy was a Director of Mark Birley Associates for 20 years, Chairman of Governors at Port Regis School and has recently finished a year as High Sheriff of Somerset. She also owns and runs Forest Lodge Stud where she breeds and trains dressage and event horses.

Dr Ian Fergusson

Dr. Ian Fergusson, founder of Tommy's

Ian Fergusson was a co-founder and the original chairman of Tommy's. He trained as a doctor at Cambridge and St Thomas' Hospital, London, where he subsequently became the senior consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology. He also held consultant posts at Queen Charlotte's Hospital and Chelsea Hospital for Women. For a time he was curator of the museum at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Ian retired from medical practice in 2008, and spends his time supporting the church and various community activities in West Sussex, travelling the world to watch cricket, and fly fishing in Hampshire and Scotland. He is married with four children and twelve grandchildren.

Dr Anthony Kenney

Dr. Anthony Kenney, founder of Tommy's

Anthony was a co-founder of Tommy’s and a Consultant at St Thomas's Hospital where he worked with Ian Fergusson. He had a special interest in gynaecological cancer surgery and in the prevention of premature labour using abdominally inserted cervical sutures.

Since retiring, he has visited several sub Saharan African countries to teach courses aimed at lowering maternal mortality. He was also a Trustee of QUIT which helped smokers to stop smoking, this being a major avoidable cause of perinatal death and disability. Anthony has five children and seven grandchildren. One of his sons is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.