Tommy’s receives new grant to fund prematurity research

Everyone in the Tommy’s office was delighted to hear that the Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation has decided to make a generous grant of £42,900 to fund our prematurity research.

Premature baby in incubator.

The grant will contribute to the work of our research midwives at the Tommy’s centre in St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

The Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation

The Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation was established in 2012 by a legacy from the late Lord Wolfson. His written wishes were that Lady Wolfson should continue his good work and play an important lifetime role in the work he so loved and found fulfilling and important for the future.
The Foundation focuses on preventative healthcare. It funds cutting-edge research to help people across the world enjoy longer and healthier lives. The Trustees are longstanding supporters of St Thomas’ Hospital, and their good work has included funding care for premature and sick babies at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. 

Now, by funding Tommy’s, they’re also helping to ensure that fewer babies will be born prematurely. This means their support is now joined up across the spectrum from pregnancy to birth, and will save even more babies’ lives.

“The news of this ongoing support is extremely welcome, indeed critical, to be able to continue the momentum we have gained.”  Professor Andrew Shennan, Maternal and Fetal Research Unit Clinical Lead

Tommy’s London centre

At St Thomas’ Hospital, Tommy’s is leading research into premature birth in the UK and globally. We’re pioneering and developing effective screening tests and treatments – so fewer babies are born too soon. Our recent ground-breaking achievements include:

  • achieving a 23% reduction in premature births in women who are at high risk and attended our clinic during 2014-15, compared to the previous year; and
  • demonstrating that transabdominal stitches are more effective than cervical stitches in preventing premature births and saving babies’ lives.

Our work has an impact far beyond London; we influence care and policy nationally and further afield. Professor Andrew Shennan, for example, was a member of the World Health Organisation’s Preterm Birth Guideline Development Group in 2014/15. Together with colleague Lucilla Poston, he was also an adviser to the Chief Medical Officer for England on the 2015 annual report ‘Women’s Health’.

Why our midwives are important

Each of our midwives will directly support at least 500 women a year, but they also work on all the medical trials that take place at our London centre. This means they have a wider impact on pregnant women across the UK.

Our midwives are overseen by Annette Briley, our Clinical Trials Manager and Consultant Midwife. As well as helping women who come to the centre, Annette and her team also:

  • recruit patients to clinical trials;
  • monitor and support women at high risk of premature labour; and
  • develop new research projects, assess them for feasibility, and put them into practice.

Our work on premature birth

Our midwives spend a lot of their time on research projects that aim to prevent babies being born too soon.

“In the middle of tubes, wires, machines and nurses was a tiny baby who they were telling me was mine. Mason’s skin was see-through and my first thought was that he didn’t look like a baby, more an alien. His legs were all bruised and swollen, which I was told was due to his birth. I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed; just crying and feeling so helpless.”

Natalie, Tommy’s supporter, whose son was born at 25 weeks

About one in 14 pregnant women in the UK gives birth prematurely. Their babies face a battle to live. Because their organs are still developing, the earlier the baby is born the higher the risk that they will develop serious health problems, or even die before they leave the hospital. In the UK, premature births are responsible for four out of 10 deaths of children under five.

By funding the work of our midwives, the Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation’s grant is helping more babies to be born at the right time and have a better chance of a healthy future. Everyone at Tommy’s is very grateful to the Foundation and we look forward to working together.


Why our research is needed

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