Who we are

Our history, our Trustees, and our Executive Team.

Our organisation has a long history, stretching all the way back to 1927, and the founding of the Asthma Research Council. In 1989 we became the National Asthma Campaign, which in turn became Asthma UK in 2004.

In 2020 Asthma UK merged with the British Lung Foundation to become the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership. As a partnership of equals, we are now in a strong position to share our combined energy and passion to make a difference for all people affected by asthma and other lung diseases.

Our strategic direction is set by our council of trustees, who ensure we achieve our objectives while upholding the charity’s values.

Our trustees

Baroness Tessa Blackstone – Chair

Baroness Blackstone is a Labour peer and has chaired the board of a wide range of organisations. She studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) where she went on to take her doctorate. Her academic career began as a lecturer in social administration at LSE. Later, she became professor of educational administration at the University of London Institute of Education.
She was minister of state in the Department for Education and Employment and then in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Tessa has published widely in academic journals, and written a number of books, mainly on social and educational policy.

Professor Ian Hall – Vice Chair

Ian is Director of the NIHR-Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre and works clinically as a respiratory physician, running a specialist clinic for patients with severe asthma in Nottingham. Ian has over 25 years’ experience in this clinical area and in 1993 was appointed as the inaugural National Asthma Campaign Senior Research Fellow. Ian has been heavily involved in research management and clinical academic training at a national level, as well as medical education. He chairs the UK Respiratory Research Collaboration. Ian has supported Asthma UK over many years, serving on the Asthma UK research panel, contributing to Asthma UK reports, and participating in workshops for a range of activities including EARIP. 

Ralph Bernard CBE

Ralph’s media career has spanned more than 30 years. He was responsible for the UK’s first commercial radio merger, which ultimately created GWR Group, the country’s largest radio group until 2008. In 1991, Ralph had the original idea to launch Classic FM, Britain’s most successful commercial radio station. Ralph led the GWR Group for more than 25 years, stepping down as chief executive in 2008. He received a CBE for services to broadcasting in 2002.
In addition to his work with the British Lung Foundation, Ralph is also chairman of the Central School of Ballet and chairman of Classic FM.

Jean-Francois Bessiron

Jean-Francois brings over 20 years’ experience in supply chain / commercial operations and digital marketing / technology. He has held senior leadership positions with FTSE100 and NASDAQ quoted companies at Kingfisher, TechData, Amazon, and most recently at Groupon where he is International Vice President. Jean-Francois has deep expertise in leveraging technology at scale to develop new customer propositions from customer insights to product strategy, customer experience and physical operations (logistics, customer services). He has been leading internal transformation programmes impacting several thousands of employees across EU, developing automation and machine learning to make faster and better business decisions. Jean-Francois is an Independent Advisor for the UK Government at HM Revenue & Customs.

Jim Bowes

Jim is the CEO and co-founder of Manifesto, an award-winning top-100 digital agency and consultancy. He set up the London-based business in 2011, designing digital services and products around the needs of users, working predominantly across the health, housing, travel and charity sectors. Jim has worked in digital for over fifteen years, and also presents the podcast Alexa Stop!, which discusses the impact of technology on our lives.

Emily Bushby

Emily is Chief Operating Officer at Guarantco. Her previous roles have included leading the finance function of a medical related charity, mergers and acquisitions for a highly acquisitive FTSE 30 business, and investment management within the banking sector. She trained as a chartered accountant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in London and is an alumnus of Exeter University, where she gained a BSc in Psychology.

Edwin Chilvers

Edwin is Professor of Medicine, and Head of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. His research interests are in inflammatory cell biology – relevant to a range of inflammatory lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and acute lung injury. Before taking up his current post, Professor Chilvers was Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Cambridge from 1998-2018. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2007, serving on Council between 2013-16, and was President of the British Thoracic Society in 2016-17.

Isabel DiVanna

Isabel is a director-level business development and marketing professional. She is currently the commercial director of the Bar Council. She has been a director of corporate partnerships and business development in London and in Cambridge, and spent many years working on professional development, continuing training and executive education, following a career as a lecturer in history at Cambridge University.
Isabel has experience working in the professional services and not-for-profit sectors. She is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and of the Chartered Management Institute, and a member of the Institute of Fundraising and of the Business Continuity Institute.

John Graham

After completing a chemistry degree at Oxford University, John trained as an accountant with Deloitte. He worked in industry with BP, the Seiko Epson Group in the UK and eventually became Finance Director of Northamber plc, a FTSE 250 company. In 1996 he became Finance Director of NSPCC, and in 2008 moved to the Royal British Legion as Finance Director.
During his 20 years with the charity sector, John has been involved in a number of sector initiatives including advice on pensions and risk. For eight years he sat on the Charity Commission SORP committee helping to articulate the international accounting standards for the benefit of the charity sector.

Katherine Morgan

Katherine is Director of Marketing and Transformation at Fenwick. Previously she was Head of Business Planning for Sainsbury’s Argos, providing insight and governance for various steering groups and Board level committees.  Katherine has wide experience balancing customer, commercial and strategic initiatives and hopes to use this to support the partnership’s future activity.

Niren Patel

Niren is an investment strategist at Aviva Investors, and is responsible for building bespoke investment strategies for institutional investors across all areas of design, management and client delivery. Prior to joining Aviva Investors, Niren was a Director within the Solutions business at BlackRock. He worked with a number of large UK Defined Benefit pension funds to design, implement and evolve their investment strategies. Niren began his career at KPMG LLP where he worked both in investment and pension consulting. Niren is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Professor Ian Sabroe

Ian is a consultant in respiratory medicine in Sheffield, and an asthma specialist. He undertook a PhD in asthma-related research at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the Royal Brompton Hospital, and has continued research in this area as a consultant and Professor at the University of Sheffield. Ian helps to coordinate care of people with asthma across the Yorkshire region. He has worked with Asthma UK before on its Research Committee, and has had funding for his research from Asthma UK.
 

Our Executive Team

Kay Boycott – Chief Executive

Kay started her career in commercial roles for Nestlé Rowntree and Johnson & Johnson; managing major brands, key customers and major change programmes. This was followed by a decade in strategy consultancy for global clients, including DTZ Property, GlaxoSmithKline and Vodafone, and UK government departments. In this period, she was a Non-Executive Director and Audit Chair of NHS Hammersmith & Fulham Primary Care Trust, supporting the turnaround from significant financial deficit to sustainability.

Kay moved to the charity sector in 2009 as Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications for Shelter, also serving as a Trustee of Gingerbread. In October 2013 Kay became Chief Executive of Asthma UK, leading the organisation through digital transformation and increasing cross sector partnerships in research and innovation. She is currently a Trustee of the Association of Medical Research Charities, a member of the Kings Fund General Advisory Council, lay member of the Durham University Board, and a Non-Executive Director for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Ben Clarkson – Chief Operating Officer

Ben joined Asthma UK in September 2019 to lead the Operations team, incorporating the Facilities, Finance, Governance, People, and Technology functions. He is also Company Secretary. A CIPFA qualified accountant, Ben started his career in the public sector with the Audit Commission, where he led audits across a range of local government and NHS clients. From there, he moved into the not-for-profit sector with Macmillan Cancer Support, where he was Head of Financial Operations. Ben then moved to the London Community Foundation, where he was Director of Finance and Resources, before joining Asthma UK. Ben is a trustee of Lewisham Speaking Up, a charity for adults with learning disabilities, and also sits on the CIPFA Charities and Public Benefit Entities Faculty Board.

Dr Alison Cook – Director of External Affairs

Alison worked as a broadcast journalist and programme editor for the BBC in news and current affairs for over 12 years, before starting a career in strategic communications. She worked for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority as Head of Press, before moving on to work in government as a policy communications advisor to Ministers, in both the Department of Health and Number 10. Her first role for a charity was as Director of External Affairs for Alzheimer’s Society. A scientist by background, Alison completed a PhD in signals processing in the nervous system, followed by a post doc in colour vision at University College London.

Alison Cowan – Interim Director of Marketing Integration

Alison has been a charity Fundraising and Marketing Director for the best part of 15 years and specialises in interim roles transforming income generation, marketing and communications activity and teams. Charities she has worked at include Teenage Cancer Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Barnardo’s, Mencap and Missing People. Alison was a key member of the Comic Relief team that delivered the most successful Red Nose Day ever raising £110million. She was a trustee at the mental health charity Mind for eleven years, including seven as Vice Chair.

James Culling – Director of Fundraising

James is a communications specialist with nearly 20 years of not-for-profit experience. Although starting his career in marketing and public relations, he now specialises in fundraising – most recently driving income growth at Parkinson’s UK. He has also worked for a wide range of charities and organisations within the sector – including disability, cancer, development and mental and physical health. James is also a Trustee of a local Mind Association covering Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

Mike McKevitt – Director of Services

Mike joined the BLF in 2010 and has over 30 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector working for a variety of national charities. These have included causes such as homelessness, child poverty and supporting adults with complex long-term medical conditions. Previously he was Head of Regional Care Development (South) with the Motor Neurone Disease Association.  Mike has a specific interest in patient-led peer support groups and the positive impact they can have on user wellbeing.

Dr Samantha Walker – Director of Research & Innovation

Samantha joined Asthma UK in January 2011. A nurse by training, she maintains her research activity through an honorary senior lectureship (non-clinical) in the Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, and has published extensively on asthma and allergy for over 25 years in high impact research journals.