Bridging the gap between conventional medicine and public health
Making a difference to patients and populations

Frances Elliott Posted by Frances Elliott on 17 Dec 2019 / Comments


In November this year I was delighted to be asked by BSLM chairman Rob Lawson to support the society in a new formal role as interim Executive Director. So, now I’ve settled into our offices in East Lothian, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about myself, what my priorities will be and my hopes and ambitions for the society.

We have come a long way since BSLM was founded more than three years ago. Each year we have seen our membership grow and attendance at our conference reached more than 400 people this year. When our first gathering was held in Bristol in 2017 (the year I joined BSLM) many of you will recall there were fewer than 100 of us! Awareness of lifestyle medicine is rising among health professionals and its move into the mainstream continues.

I was privileged to be asked to present at the society’s second conference in Edinburgh in the summer of 2018 - speaking in my capacity as medical director with NHS Fife, a role I held for over four years and from which I retired in April of this year.

Prior to this I had worked for 12 years as a GP in the NHS and also in a variety of medical management roles, but I had always been keen to explore ways we could join up public health and conventional medicine. For too long I had felt these two elements of our health system had operated in silos. And without joining the dots between them I felt we would always struggle to address the significant health and wellbeing challenges faced by local populations.

Doctors in 10 or 15 minute appointments can only do so much. If there is no synergy with local public health, or if there is no option to explore lifestyle medicine as an approach, we will only get so far with patients, especially those suffering with long-term chronic conditions.

I would like to continue to develop these linkages in my new role with the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine. Rob spoke about this in his recent blog on self care week and it’s something I look forward to developing further.


Why lifestyle medicine?

One of the things which excites me about lifestyle medicine is its focus on working with patients to explore what truly matters to them. That means looking at what motivates people, what are the goals which they want to achieve, and how we can support them to do this. Such an approach gives us a genuine opportunity I believe to help individuals to treat, manage and even reverse many common chronic conditions. The potential is there not just to make a difference at an individual level but at the societal level too.

With non-communicable diseases now the biggest cause of death worldwide it is impossible to overstate the burden these conditions are causing on our healthcare systems, our societies and our populations. While infectious disease was largely caused by factors beyond humanity’s control, lifestyle-related chronic conditions are certainly within our power to address. The healthcare battles of the future will probably not be fought against invisible germs in the air - but with ourselves, how we live and the kind of world we have created. Lifestyle medicine offers us a genuine opportunity to build systems of health and care which are truly sustainable.


My role at BSLM

At BSLM, my role will involve close working with other members of the Executive team including Rob, Neil Bindemann, Laurence Stewart, and Ellen Fallows. Neil’s new role will be Director of External affairs. Neil has made a significant contribution to the growth of BSLM since he started working with us in January, including organising our third annual conference in Cardiff in the summer. Now he will use his skills to focus on building our external profile and developing a fundraising strategy while utilising his extensive contacts in the charity sector.

My priorities for the coming months include developing and improving our approach to governance, project managing the commissioning and building of a new website, growing our membership and helping to organise the BSLM2020 conference in London.

Throughout my career I have had a passion for systems and strategic thinking and how they can be put to good use. Principally, that has meant utilising them to the benefit of individual and societal health and wellbeing. As a GP this was at the patient level, at NHS Fife my focus was on the population level. At BSLM I hope I can find new ways to bridge the gap between the two.

It is this knowledge and experience, coupled with my practical skill set, which I now hope to put to good use at BSLM. At this important time in the society’s growth I want to ensure we are fit for purpose and ready to take on new challenges. I would welcome feedback from members, as well as your ideas for how we build on the success of BSLM’s first four years. Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts.


Frances Elliot, December 2019

Frances Elliott
Dr Frances Elliott
Acting Executive Director

General Practitioner

BSLM Acting Executive Director Frances Elliot returned to NHS Fife as Medical Director in November 2014 having served as Deputy Chief Medical Officer in Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates for nearly 2 years. Dr Elliot trained in general practice and she was a partner in Methilhaven Practice from 1987-1998. She moved into medical management as Medical Director of Fife Healthcare NHS Trust in 1998 and became Interim Chief Executive of the Primary Care Trust from 2002-2004. Dr Elliot is currently in her second spell as the Board’s Medical Director having served in the role from 2004 to 2009 before leaving to become Chief Executive of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, which later became Healthcare Improvement Scotland. Dr Elliot’s current executive lead responsibilities are for patient safety, clinical governance, primary care and information governance. Dr Elliot is also the Board’s Caldicott Guardian.