New ACU unit is opened at Ninewells

The new Assisted Conception Unit (ACU) at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital was officially opened last Friday by one of the pioneering doctors who set up the unit almost 30 years ago.

Dr John Mills visited the unit where he was given a tour of the new facility. NHS Tayside Chairman Sandy Watson welcomed Dr Mills and other guests to the unit before clinical lead Dr Vanessa Kay gave an overview of the assisted conception service. Dr Mills then unveiled the commemorative plaque to mark the unit officially open.

Dr Mills, along with his colleague Dr Geoff James, set up the ACU at Ninewells in 1983 which resulted in the birth of the first IVF baby in Scotland in September 1984. Prior to this, the only treatments available in Tayside were ovulation induction, tubal surgery and artificial insemination.

Other firsts for the unit include the first baby born following treatment using donated embryos in 1989, the first baby born following treatment using frozen embryos in 1994 and the first baby born following intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

The department originally operated from a laboratory with seven staff. Egg retrievals and embryo transfer took place in maternity theatre at the end of the theatre list and patients were nursed in the early pregnancy ward.

In 1994, the unit opened in Ward 35, a self-contained ward with its own inpatient and outpatient areas, laboratory and office accommodation.

As the service developed, the ACU outgrew its accommodation and work began in September 2010 to provide a new extension and redevelop the existing space.

The newly refurbished and extended facility houses a theatre, procedure room and embryology laboratory along with consulting and scanning rooms, recovery bay and andrology laboratory.

The department now has a staff of 30 comprising clinical, scientific, nursing, administrative and counselling staff.

Around 400 to 450 treatment cycles are carried out each year and success rates have consistently been above the national average. So far, over 3,000 babies have been born as a result of IVF/ICSI treatment at Ninewells.

Dr Mills acknowledged the contribution of NHS Tayside in providing a state-of-the-art unit fit for today. “Almost thirty years ago NHS Tayside was among the first Health Boards in the UK to introduce an assisted conception service to an NHS hospital, with initial support from the Cunningham Trust,” he said.

“This acknowledged not only the distress felt by infertile couples, but an investment in Scotland’s future as the result of more than a thousand new children born by these techniques each year across the country.”

Sandy Watson said: “I am delighted that, almost 30 years after the setting up of the ACU in which he played such a pivotal part, Dr John Mills has been able to open this state-of-the-art refurbished facility here in Ninewells.”

Ninewells ACU was the first centre in Scotland to offer assisted conception treatment and the first in Scotland to offer NHS-funded IVF treatment. It is the second largest unit in Scotland and provides a referral service for patients from Tayside, Fife, Forth Valley and Western Isles Health Boards. It also provides a service for self-funded patients from across Scotland.

The new accommodation will allow the continued delivery of high quality care and allow for the development of additional enhanced services.