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The British Society for Functional Illness

To found a cross-speciality, interdisciplinary, digital community to breakdown silos and improve communication and support for the care of people with complex functional illness.

  • Proposal
  • 2022

Meet the team


  • Penny George, Recovered Patient Representative. Co-founder of Mindbody Medicine UK
  • Dr Ellen Wright, GP, Clinical Academic Fellow, King’s College London
  • Dr Ayiesha Malik, GP
  • Dr Lizzie Croton, GP
  • Dr Sarah Hadfield, GP

What is the challenge your project is going to address and how does it connect to the theme?

Functional Illnesses are common, resulting in high morbidity and health care utilisation. Functional symptoms affect all body systems. Currently they are managed by the respective specialist according to the predominant location of symptoms. Medicine has been slow to recognise that these conditions have a shared aetiology, leading to disjointed care, lack of cohesion and suboptimal patient experiences.

Fantastic work has been done furthering our understanding of functional conditions, with neurologists and pain specialists leading the way. The creation of a multidisciplinary professional society will redress the fragmentation of care, drawing together diverse expertise to reimagine clinical services.

Our project aims to create a series of digital guidelines and collaborations, forming expert consensus on diagnostic criteria, investigation, and management, drawing functional illness from the periphery into the mainstream NHS offer where it belongs.

This will create a consistent narrative for patients engaging with health systems, improving outcomes, and reducing health inequalities.

What does your project aim to achieve?

The society will host a digital platform to share learning across specialists. (cf. Medshir – Through multidisciplinary focus groups we will formulate expert consensus, clinical guidelines and patient educational resources which will be freely available via our website. An annual conference will be established. Longer term we hope to offer clinical educational courses for mind-body medicine. This represents a systems level approach to improving the management of these common, poorly understood and underrepresented conditions across the NHS.

Proposed objectives:

1. To define functional symptoms and illness.

2. To agree a list of common illnesses considered to be functional.

3. To facilitate cross specialty learning and co-operation.

4. To guide sustainable health care policy, prioritising functional illness.

5. To guide the direction of future research.

6. To create patient and clinician facing educational material.

7. To create a directory of approved practitioners.

How will the project be delivered?

The concept of a cross speciality collaboration improving patient care has been well establish with organisations such as COPC ( Functional illnesses would particularly benefit from such an organisation.  Long-covid has highlighted the importance of coordinated interdisciplinary management of these complex conditions, making this an ideal time to build on this momentum.

We have collated a directory of specialists and researchers across the fields of General Practice, Psychiatry, Pain Medicine, Neurology, Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Dentistry and Paediatrics. Initial funding will be used for setup costs, creating the website and digital learning platforms, and the formulation of mission statements, initial guidance, and educational materials. In terms of sustainability, we plan to generate revenue from conferences, course fees and other funding streams to establish an enduring organisation that can continue to champion recognition and management of functional symptoms and illness, with potential far reaching benefits for individual patients and wider health systems.

How is your project going to share learning?

Our hope is that the Q-exchange process will introduce Q-members to this exciting project and help to create new collaborations across the Q-community within this important field. If there is sufficient interest amongst Q-members we aim to create a new Q-community Special Interest Group for functional illness, to harness the expertise of the Q-community in driving the project forwards, and share updates on progress with the project with Q members.

In terms of wider health systems, recommendations based on cross-speciality expert consensus will be publish on the society website, and where appropriate in academic journals. We intend that clinician and patient educational resources arising from the collaboration should be freely available via the website. An annual conference will be an opportunity to further share advances in the field. In the future we hope to provide formalised educational courses for health care professionals.

How you can contribute

  • The success of this project depends upon forming strong collaborations and networks across the field of functional illness, and therefore contribution from Experts, Networkers and Promoters would be invaluable.
  • Our team mostly consists of frontline clinicians. Each of us have witnesses first hand, personally or professionally, the immense harm which results from the failure of our current health system to acknowledge the existence of the mind:body connection, and to appropriately identify and treat functional symptoms and illness. This is the source for our passion for this work, but passion alone is not enough.
  • As front-line clinicians we have moderate experience in project development, and so input from Critical friends, Strategists and Fixers to help identify and avoid potential pitfalls would be welcome.

Plan timeline

14 Jun 2022 Winners announced
1 Sep 2022 Formation of charitable organisation. Website and App development process.
1 Oct 2022 Recruitment of interested parties. Begin online discussions
1 Nov 2022 First series of online expert Conesus groups
1 Jan 2023 Formulation of mission statements & initial guidance. Continued networking & recruitment
1 Jun 2023 Formulation of clinician and patient facing educational material
1 Sep 2023 Planning first annual conference - continued focus groups and guidance development
1 Jun 2024 Annual conference - revenue generation for financial independence for enduring organisation

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