New chief executive announced for Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation today announced that Sarah Woolnough will take over as Chief Executive from December 2020, as the current Chief Executive, Kay Boycott, moves to a long-planned portfolio career.

Sarah joins from Cancer Research UK, where she is Executive Director of Policy and Information, as well as serving as a Trustee of MQ: Transforming Mental Health and the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). She has a wealth of experience in policy, influencing, and delivering social change, including a secondment to the Department of Health to co-write the National Cancer Strategy and was recently voted the most effective charity sector communicator in the PR Week Power Book.  She has built strong links with the academic community to fund high impact research throughout her career and has previously held Trustee roles at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and Bliss, the special care baby charity.

Sarah has a track record of successfully influencing government and other stakeholders and has led national campaigns to introduce standardised ‘plain packaging’ for cigarettes, a new national strategy and funding deal for radiotherapy, and for updated cancer strategies in all nations of the UK.

Sarah said: “It’s an honour to be appointed CEO of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation.  Respiratory health is a cause I care deeply about, and it’s been inspiring to see the extraordinary lengths that they’ve gone to in supporting people with lung conditions over many years, and most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It will be a real privilege to join the charity at such a crucial time, and I look forward to being part of a team committed to making real change for the 12 million people in the UK affected by lung disease.”

Kay Boycott said: “It’s been an absolute privilege to have served people with lung disease as the first Chief Executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and to have led Asthma UK before that.  I’m extremely proud of what we’ve managed to achieve together, including proving the value of the merger.  Leaving such a dedicated and committed team will be a big wrench, but I’m thrilled to be handing over to a leader of Sarah’s calibre.”

Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chair of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation said “I am delighted to welcome Sarah to the charity and greatly look forward to working with her. With respiratory disease never higher on the national agenda, she joins us at an opportune time to deliver even more for people with lung conditions.” 

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation joined forces to make an even bigger difference to everyone affected by lung conditions and to become a stronger, even more powerful voice for change. Responding to the pandemic, staff have provided extensive expert health advice and support responding to the huge increase in contacts to the helplines, websites and social media, taking pressure off GPs and hospitals. The charities also launched a Post-COVID online HUB, and dedicated helpline to support people after COVID.

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For more information, please contact Karen Rosine, Head of Media 07768 570007.

Notes to Editors:

Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation merged on 1 January 2020.

Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and, ultimately, cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. We are entirely funded by voluntary donations. For further information, please visit: asthma.org.uk.

The British Lung Foundation offers hope, help and a voice to the 1 in 5 people in the UK affected by lung disease. We provide support and information to improve the everyday lives of people with lung disease. We are also campaigning for better diagnosis, treatment and prevention for now and the future. For further information, please visit blf.org.uk.