A look back at 2023 for Plant-Based Health Professionals UK

In a challenging year marked by societal struggles, declining human and planetary health, and exacerbated by political conflicts and climate disasters, our commitment to fostering change remains steadfast. We’ve dedicated our efforts to advocating and supporting a transition toward a whole food, plant-based diet and lifestyle. Join us in prioritising health, resilience, and sustainable living amidst these formidable challenges.

Shireen Kassam
16 min readDec 27, 2023


NEW TEAM MEMBERS: This year we have welcomed several new team members who are working on specific projects. Claire Lynch, RD, has taken over as educational lead, overseeing our online and in-person education programmes. Michael Metoudi, RD, has joined as a research dietitian. He has initiated a research survey for dietitians and is working on a number of systematic reviews. Isabelle Sadler has joined as a research assistant and has written up our member survey for publication. She is now working on analysing hospital menus. Karen Lee has joined as events manager and was instrumental in making the VegMed 2023 conference a success. Clare Day and Daisy Lund, both GPs, have launched the PBHP UK podcast…more about that later.

VEGMED LONDON 2023: The big event of the year was organising and hosting VegMed 2023. Our first in-person conference since 2019, VegMed 2023 took place at Imperial College London on September 9th and 10th (the hottest weekend of the year!) and was a collaboration between Plant-Based Health Professionals UK and PAN International — Physicians Association for Nutrition, and supported by ProVeg International. The overarching theme was ‘Bringing Plant-Based Nutrition into Healthcare’. We had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, full of inspiration, knowledge exchange and networking.

The VegMed conferencing brand started in 2012 and is Europe’s largest conference dedicated to plant-based nutrition. This year was no different. The conference featured over 40 speakers from the fields of medicine, nutrition and research and brought attendees up to date on the science and practice of plant-based nutrition. Topics covered ranged from clinical practice, managing chronic conditions, public sector catering, medical education, community cooking, behaviour change, policy implementation and more. The content was designed to be applicable and accessible to health professionals and non-health professionals alike. Our small conference team led by our events manager Karen Lee who did a fantastic job with pulling off a truly memorable event.

You can access the full conference on demand till March 2024 at vegmed.uk. Read our conference report, written by Isabelle Sadler, here.

ORGANISATION OVERVIEW AND STRATEGY: VegMed 2023 brought a renewed focus and motivation to our work and has allowed us to formally articulate our mission and the role we play in the plant-based and vegan movements. Read our organsational overview documents, long and short.


Factsheets: We have continued to maintain and add to our large collection of free factsheets. Thanks to the expertise of our education lead Claire Lynch, our members and the fabulous design skills of our graphic designer Kate Dunbar, these are extensively used by healthcare professionals in clinical practice. They cover diet recommendations but increasingly include broader evidence-based lifestyle recommendations. Highlights from 2023 include three factsheets on chronic kidney disease (chronic kidney disease, dialysis and transplant) developed with our member and registered dietitian Angeline Taylor as a collaboration with the BDA renal nutrition speciality group. Kiran Agarwal, GP, developed a factsheet in her speciality area of airway health. Plant-based on a budget is an essential resource, given the ongoing high cost of food, developed by our member and nutritionist Faith Cavalli. Rohini and Claire developed the factsheet on plant sources of iron. Alan Desmond has written a much-requested guide on preparing for a colonoscopy. Several factsheets have been translated into Turkish and French with the generous support of members Didem Varol RD and Dr. Laurence Froidevaux, along with several other volunteers from the vegan community. In the pipeline we have factsheets on protein, gastro-oesophageal reflex, COPD and more.

Articles: We have an extensive collection of evidence-based articles on plant-based nutrition with up-to-date scientific references. This year our members Elena Holmes contributed an article on nightshade foods and Laura Janse Van Rensburg on eating disorders and veganism. We have also written articles for like-minded organisations, including Eating Better, MyNutriWeb, SARX, Green Alliance.

21-day plant-based health challenge: This has had a makeover thanks to Claire Lynch. Since the launch in October 2020, over 5000 people have signed up, 73% of whom were not vegan. Only 31.1% reported they ate a plant-based diet prior to the challenge. This increased to 55.5% at 3 months. This increase came predominantly from the omnivorous group which reduced from 37.8% to 16.7%. 62.2% of these respondents reported their diet was “more plant-based”, with only 22.4% reporting no change in their diet. 48.2% reported finding it easy to eat plant-based with the majority reporting they would continue.

VegFest UK events: We love supporting the VegFest events, run by our friend and longstanding supporter Tim Barford. We participated in both Brighton VegFest in April and London VegFest in November with a day of experts talks from our members and a stall. We met so many people who had not yet heard of our work and also a number of healthcare professionals. Two wonderful weekends.


CPD-accredited webinars: Led by nutritionist and PBHP UK communications lead Rohini Bajekal, our CPD-accredited webinar programme launched in 2020 and has delivered over 70 live presentations with the recordings available for our members. This has served to bring together a community of global plant-based advocates and reach health professionals who are not plant-based yet but are interested in incorporating lifestyle and nutrition interventions into their clinical practice. In general, we have 100–300 participants for each webinar with an international audience of predominantly health professionals. In 2023 we hosted 13 webinars on a wide range of topics, including cancer, fatty liver disease, palliative care, rheumatological conditions and more.

Link to course

Cooking for the climate, developed and led by Dr Hayley Tait, is our culinary medicine course, now in its 3rd year. This has initially been aimed at UK medical students who are able to choose 10% of their curriculum in the form of Special Study Modules (SSMs). Hayley delivered the SSM in two medical schools in 2021/2022 academic year (Exeter and Southampton) for year 2 and 3 students and in 2023, King’s College London (the largest student healthcare body in Europe) came on board. This programme has a blended approach with both eLearning and live sessions and teaches students the practical skills and knowledge required to support patients to adopt a healthy plant-based diet. It has been a popular course and received excellent feedback. The course can be adapted for a range of audiences so please contact us if you are interested in delivering this course.

University of Winchester plant-based nutrition course: This course has been a team effort and continues to go from strength to strength. It is now in its fifth year and has had nearly 900 participants from around the world. It remains the only University-based plant-based nutrition course in the UK and is CPD accredited by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. It is a self-paced 8-week course, which provides a thorough science-based grounding in the subject. It remains popular amongst healthcare professionals and interested public. The course along with PBHP UK resources and webinars are recommended as part of the Green Impact for Health toolkit for General Practitioners in England. So far there are more than 900 General Practices taking part in this scheme. This year, the newly launched Glas toolkit from the Irish College of GPs also recommends the course and other PBHP UK resources to its members.

Lifestyle medicine for cancer prevention and survivorship: This year Shireen Kassam, in collaboration with Dr Laura Freeman and other PBHP UK contributors, has launched a second short course at the University of Winchester. Diet and lifestyle approaches for cancer is not a topic that is widely covered within healthcare curricula or training. This course provides the knowledge and skills required to implement evidence-based lifestyle medicine strategies for cancer prevention and living well after a cancer diagnosis. Although aimed at practicing healthcare professionals from all disciplines, it also has relevance to the wider public. The content covers the six pillars of lifestyle medicine, namely healthy diets, physical activity, restorative sleep, healthy relationships, management of stress and avoidance of harmful substances, and provides actionable take aways for personal and professional practice. The course aims to provide individuals and practitioners the confidence to disseminate this information amongst their patients, families and their communities.

An initial soft launch has seen 30 people take for the first course.

P.S. At time of writing the UoW’s website is have some difficulties. Direct links to booking these courses below.

Plant-Based Nutrition

Cancer and lifestyle medicine

Hospital grand rounds and education meetings: Every UK hospital has a weekly Grand Round where staff have the opportunity to present to the rest of the hospital staff. Since the start of the pandemic, these have moved to a virtual setting, and this has provided us with the opportunity to invite ourselves and be invited onto these programmes. In addition, NHS and hospital sustainability teams have invited us to present at a number of educational meetings. In 2023, Shireen, along with team members LJ Smith and Laura Freeman, have given presentations at King’s College Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust, Colchester Hospital, NHS graduate and management scheme, West Hertfordshire teaching hospitals, Darent Valley Hospital, Welsh Hospitals grand round and Netherlands teaching hospitals (Canisius Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis Nijmegen, RIjnstate ziekenhuis Arnhem and RadboudUMC Nijmegen). We already have a number of invitations lined up for 2024.

Medical and healthcare teaching: Members have spoken at numerous student and trainee events including for the Liverpool University Lifestyle Medicine Society online and in-person events, Norwich Nutritank Society, Leeds Medical School planetary health module, York Hull Medical School Health and Climate change MSc, London respiratory trainees study day, BDA sustainable diets study day, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare online events, Indian Society of Lifestyle Medicine, Physicians Association for Nutrition, India, GP trainers workshop (Ealing), European Young Family Doctors’ Movement, MyNutriWeb and contributed several talks for their sustainable diets course

Conferences: PBHP UK team members continue to have a presence at lifestyle medicine and plant-based nutrition conferences. This year Dr Gemma Newman spoke at the PCRM’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine and at the first plant-based nutrition conference in Greece. Dr Alan Desmond spoke at Plantrician Project International Plant-Based Nutrition in Healthcare conference. Both Alan and Gemma spoke at the Doctors for Nutrition, Nutrition in Healthcare Conference in Australia. Rosie Martin spoke at the Ministry of Defense GP conference. Shireen Kassam gave a keynote address at the ENT Scotland winter conference. She also spoke at Brazil’s first plant-based nutrition conference, Danish vegetarian society’s healthcare conference and Compassion in World Farming’s Extinction or Regeneration conference.

Shireen, alongside fellow plant-based haematologists Urvi Shah and Manmit Kaur, hosted two sessions on well-being with a focus on plant-based lifestyle medicine at the British Society of Haematology annual conference. Shireen also participated in the Royal College of Pathologists International Pathology Day online event speaking about the benefits of plant-based diets for sustainable healthcare.

Claire Lynch and Isabelle Sadler had oral poster presentations at the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine Conference, presenting results of the 21-day plant-based health challenge and the member survey.

Shireen Kassam continues to provide a monthly news review to keep the health professional community up to date in the field. This is shared via Medium and our social media platforms including Instagram and can also be found on our website under news updates.


Community plant-based cook school: With our funding, PBHP UK supports Vinny’s Kitchen, a community plant-based cook school based in Liverpool. Founded and run by Dr Hayley Tait, the school runs weekly plant-based cooking classes and distributes the food to the homeless community and other vulnerable groups. In the last year, it has provided 60 school age children with regular cooking classes and held 5 classes with vulnerable families identified by the charity An Hour for Others. It has produced over 2200 meals distributed to the local homeless and residents of the YMCA and engaged local community involvement from retail and medical sectors.

BME dementia: We were delighted to partner with Touchstone to provide a practical online and in-person series of workshops on healthy diet and lifestyles for people living with dementia and their carers. The programme was very well received.

Other community work: We have provided talks, workshops and resources for the MDS Scotland patient support group, Yes to Life annual conference, Made in Hackney and Chartwell Cancer Trust.

PODCAST: Thanks to GP’s Dr Clare Day and Daisy Lund, we now have a podcast! In a Nutshell launched in June and already has 13 fantastic episodes. The podcast provides a new platform for sharing evidence-based plant-based nutrition information. Aimed at healthcare professionals, Clare and Daisy provide informal yet informative and accessible conversations with experts who share the latest science, evidence and practice for embedding plant-based nutrition interventions into the clinic.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Podcasts. Subscribe and share widely and don’t forget to leave a review.

MEDIA AND PR COVERAGE: Thanks to the hard work of Eden Green PR and Rohini Bajekal, we have secured extensive media coverage in the national, international and trade media raising awareness of the healthfulness of plant-based diets as well as their environmental benefits. See here for more details. PBHP UK is now on the radar of several leading journalists, and we are regularly featured in national media outlets such as the Mail Online, BBC News, Metro, Independent, Telegraph, The Times, Newsweek, The Express, Healthline, Readers digest and more, with 100% positive coverage on plant-based diets and health to date. We are proactive in leading campaigns as well as tackling concerns that arise with regards to plant-based diets such as bone health in vegans. On average, we are featured in between 12–20 media outlets every month, with an estimated reach of 50 million to 350 million.

POLICY WORK: Our main work has focussed on our membership of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC). The organisation represents more than one million health professionals through organsiational membership. Its work focusses on the intersection between climate change and health outcomes, advocating for climate policies that will protect both individual and planetary health. We have been part of the writing group on their policy paper on biodiversity, climate change and health, which has a strong focus on food system transition. We attended the launch of this policy brief at the Royal College of Physicians along with our ambassador Kate Strong who took part in a cycle ride. We were thrilled to receive a fully plant-based lunch at the event. We are also delighted that the UKHACC has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty. In 2024 we will be working with the UKHACC to further influence the food environment in and outside of healthcare.

To support our policy work, we have partnered with various organisations including Plant-Based Food Alliance UK, The European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF) and PlantEurope Network. We support by providing evidence-based nutrition advice and advocacy.

RESEARCH: We continue to make a small contribution to research in the field on plant-based nutrition. To date this has involved two aspects, medical publications and research surveys. Our research dietitian Michael Metoudi has conducted a survey of dietitians in the UK and Ireland around beliefs and attitudes towards plant-based diets in clinical practice. Isabelle Sadler has submitted the findings of our member survey for publication. In collaboration with Dr Urvi Shah from MSKCC and Dr Zahra Kassam co-founder of Plant Based Canada, we have had a survey request accepted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology to investigate attitudes and practices of oncology professionals to nutrition counselling. You can find our list of publications here.

Medical publications in 2023

A Whole Food Plant-Based Approach to Ulcerative Colitis; A Case Series. Marselou D, Kassam S. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2023;0(0). doi:10.1177/15598276231213325

Attitudes of hospital patients regarding removal of processed and unprocessed red meats from menus to support sustainable healthcare targets: A single-centre survey. Truman, M, Smith, L-J, Kassam, S. Lifestyle Medicine. 2023;e87. https://doi.org/10.1002/lim2.87

Kassam S. Controlling avian influenza: we need to move away from farming animals to solve our inter-related crises. BMJ. 2023 Apr 21;381:874. doi: 10.1136/bmj.p874. PMID: 37085173.

Kassam S. Obesity: potatoes, pasta, and rice are not the problem. BMJ. 2023 Apr 25;381:938. doi: 10.1136/bmj.p938. PMID: 37185133.

BOOKS BY PBHP UK MEMBERS: We have some fantastic additions to the plant-based nutrition and lifestyle library from PBHP UK members. These include The Plant-Based Dietitians Guide to Fertility by Lisa Simon, RD, Plant Powered Little People by Paula Hallam, RD and our ambassador Dr Gemm Newman’s second book Get well, Stay Well. You can find all our books here.

SUPPORTING MISSION ALIGNED CAMPAIGNS AND ORGANISATIONS: We support a number of campaigns and organisations with our nutrition and health expertise. This includes, Scrap factory farming (Humane Being); Plant Based Treaty; Plant-Based Schools and Councils (Animal Rising); Plant-Based Universities; Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics; The Civil Service Vegan Network. In addition, we have joined forces with the wider climate active healthcare community through the informal association known as the Planetary Health Hub.

Running on Plants: We have absolutely loved partnering with Tom Pickering and his new campaign Running on Plants. Plant-based diets and physical activity is a winning combination and has provided a fun way for our community to get active and spread the plant-based message further afield. As ambassador for the campaign, our patient advocate Kate Dunbar is a fantastic role model. She has recovered from psoriatic arthritis using a plant-based lifestyle approach. She has been off medication for over 5 years and this year ran a marathon!

OUR AMBASSADORS: We are super proud of our amazing ambassadors who continue to spread the plant-based message far and wide. Dr Chidi Ngwaba took part in debates at the Public Health Collaboration Conference and at the Oxford Union, with the latter resulting in a win for the vegan proposition. He has also conducted a speaking tour of Africa spreading knowledge around healthy diet and lifestyle. Dr Gemma Newman has released her second book and continues to a prominent voice promoting healthy living for general public and health professional audiences. She has partnered with PCRM on their One Healthy World programme and she also spoke at at the European Commission conference on food systems. Dr Alan Desmond is a key voice on gut health, hosting in person events and being a guest on numerous podcasts and conferences. Kate Strong has achieved a remarkable feat, cycling 3000 miles around the UK highlighting the climate and biodiversity breakdown and visiting projects that are providing practice solutions. She received national media coverage of her challenge and all completed on a 100% plant-based diet. She continues to focus on climate health through her work with Climategames.

OUR MEMBERSHIP: Our members are key to achieving our organisational aims. This year our membership has remained stable at around 900 members, with two-third beings health professionals. We continue to engage with members through weekly newsletters, a closed facebook group, surveys and an annual AGM. Members can also connect through our website members area. Our member Sian Roberts runs an active and successful book club. Our CPD-accredited webinar recordings provide a wealth of knowledge to support member eduction. Our member Didem Varol, RD, offered members a series of free Food for Life classes. We have also had the opportunity to meet in person several times over the last year with socials in Glasgow, Birmingham, Brighton and London. In January we will be joining a Climategames challenge to get active and plant trees.

Plant Based Health Online: Sadly, our sister organisation has now closed. We opened our virtual doors as the height of the pandemic 3 years ago. We provided over 700 appointments to people looking to improve their diet and lifestyle along with a number of group programmes. Unfortunately, the service is no longer financially viable and we feel we are better to spend our resources and energy on furthering the mission of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2024: We will continue with our main programme areas. There will be more in-person and online educational events. A new project will be our partnership with the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine to offer the certification in lifestyle medicine in the UK. We will be launching a campaign asking hospitals in the UK to remove red and processed meat from menus for reasons relating to health and sustainability. Along-side this, we will be initiating a research project to evaluate hospitals Green Plans and catering menus. We continue to work on our PBHP UK documentary. We cannot wait for the cinema release of the documentary, I Could Never Go Vegan, which has features many of our members. Our ongoing research projects will generate results.

A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS: We work with some wonderful people and organisations, without whom our work would not be possible. Thank you to Carmen, Carol and Rob from Mad Ideas who run our website. Eden Green PR who amplify our message. Keith Lesser of Vegan Accountants. Jane Land and Matthew Glover who support our projects. VegFund, Karuna foundation and ProVeg for their grants. Tim Barford of VegFest, Geeta Daswani of the Daswani Law Company and Stephen Coote of VeganFitness for their guidance and support. We look forward to working with you all in 2024.



Shireen Kassam

Consultant Haematologist and Lifestyle Medicine Physician. Founder and Director of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK.