The UK Womb Transplant Research Team was formed almost 20 years ago and during that time has collaborated with other teams around the world openly sharing learning, innovations and the results of research to ensure the success and the safety of the procedure.
Over the years, Mr Richard Smith and the UK team have developed a number of life saving and fertility sparing surgical techniques. Just two of these breakthroughs are now benefitting many, many women worldwide who find that they either have either cervical cancer or a placental site tumour during pregnancy. And as the research continues, the number of innovations helping to improve womens’ health, is increasing.
Throughout 2017 and into 2018 the team have spent many hundreds of hours researching, trialling and adding improvements to the protocols governing womb transplantation and then reporting to the range of regulators who have to investigate approve new operations and treatments in the UK. Britain, quite rightly, has one of the most highly regulated systems for gaining approval for new surgical procedures in the world and the emphasis on safety of patients is paramount. Every small change, however small it may seem, has to be examined and cleared before permissions to proceed are given at each stage and this takes time.
In parallel, we have also created a variety of documents in preparation for the first womb transplants in this country. In addition, we have created a training package for the specialist nurses in organ donation, who will be the healthcare professionals obtaining the permission of relatives to retrieve their love ones’ organs for transplantation. We have also created public information leaflets to help facilitate the process.
To enable this research to eventually become a recognised and sustainable programme in UK hospitals, we have registered uterine transplantation as highly specialised service with the department of health (PSSAG) (view here). This concluded that, should the NHS fund the procedure in the future, then it will be commissioned by NHS England, not local CCGs.
All of our work, has we hope, helped to bring forward the day when we carry out our first womb transplant operation here in the UK.
However, we still need to raise more funds to be able cover all the costs of the operations and after care and to enable us to complete this very important research programme.