When I arranged an interview with Professor Robert Winston I did not quite realise what I was letting myself in for.

As the man himself says “I have had a very chequered career”. He seemed to be an expert on every aspect of science with an outstanding expertise on fertility. He has written more than 20 books, many for children including his latest, Home Lab: Exciting Experiments for Budding Scientists.

His books cover experiments, the human body, the brain, evolution, human instinct and fertility, subjects that he has discussed on TV and in the media many times.

He is much in demand because of his current position as Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London.

“I am a professional scientist and I have expertise in those scientific areas that I work in,” he tells me. “I do look at science broadly. In the job at Imperial, I try to promote relationships between scientists and the public in general, and to improve the education of science.”

Perhaps naively, I asked Robert what the highlights of his career have been.

“There are so many I don’t know where I would start. I suppose the work we did which revolutionised pelvic surgery in the 1970s, the work on a whole range of fertility disorders which I continue to deal with, the work on IVF of which I was one of the pioneers and now the world’s first attempt, successful attempt, at understanding genetics and embryos and being able to scan them for defects which would be inherited.”

When his incredible career began the attitude towards fertility was hugely different, hugely indifferent in fact, evident by the fact that when Robert became the director of fertility at Hammersmith Hospital in 1980 a senior consultant asked him “why would you want to work in the Futility Clinic?”.

“What that remark showed was the general attitude towards fertility in the 1970s, and fertility disorders” Robert explains. “There was a widespread, almost misogynistic view of people who were ‘bothering’ doctors with their fertility problems. One of my most important issues was changing that attitude, that’s perhaps one of the key things I helped to achieve.”

The medical profession may now take fertility seriously, but unfortunately the system surrounding it leaves a lot to be desired, rendering it somewhat ineffective.

Robert tells me: “It is now a massive commercial market and people are not being advised that there are a whole range of treatments for infertility, depending on the cause.

“IVF is seen as a panacea and it’s not a very good panacea, it’s not a very successful one. Less than one third of cycles are successful, there are many other treatments which are more successful given specific personalised medicine.”

I wondered to what extent this was able to continue due to fear of the “biological clock”?

“The people giving the definite numbers are the people who run fertility clinics on a private basis. They have a conflict of interest in my view,” he explains.

“There is a fertility clock but it’s not that downhill. The advice that is given, that people should do things which are not what they really want to do, i.e. forced into having IVF too early or forced to store their eggs or persuaded to get an MOT test about their fertility, none of these things are very reliable. In my view the market, the massive market in this field, has been very unhelpful in wise guidance for people who are very concerned about whether they will be able to have children.”

Privatisation of treatment and NHS reforms are a concern to many people across the UK, evident from several recent protests, including one in Brighton and Hove on Tuesday. I asked Robert if he was concerned about recent changes to the NHS.

“Can you find a doctor who isn’t?” he asks me back, and then says: “It has made medical practice more difficult.”

Robert is now involved with human transplantation and modifying animal genes to achieve organs which might then be used for human transplantation, and genetic modification is what he will discuss at The Elgiva in Chesham tomorrow (Sep 25).

“I’m going to be talking about modifying humans, about how we might misuse genetics in the future in the way we have misused many other technologies.

“The concern I have is that we might end up trying to modify the human genome by trying to advance humans, in my view that is a very dangerous area to be involved with.”

The Elgiva Theatre, St Mary’s Way, Chesham, HP5 1HR, Sunday, September 25, 3pm. Details: 01494 582900