Prof Scarlett McNally

BSc MB BChir FRCS (Tr & Orth) MA MBA FAcadMEd
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

More about me!

I am a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, working in Eastbourne, UK. I qualified as a doctor in 1989. I have always been interested in what makes people healthy, how processes work and how change happens. In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Myeloma and Cardiac amyloidosis. At the time both were considered incurable, but I have had amazing treatment, including a stem cell transplant in 2020 and I am back at work part-time. As a surgeon, I have always been involved in initiatives and organisations. I have now had more time to write, be an invited speaker and focus on the changes that we need, for everyone to live their best life and to be valued. I have additional degrees in Clinical Education (MA 2008 – University of Brighton) and healthcare management (MBA 2013 – Keele University). I was the ninth woman elected to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons (2011-2021). I was given the title of Honorary Clinical Professor at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in May 2022.

Scalett with RCS at BOA September 2019

Health is not just about healthcare. To me, surgery is the ultimate intervention – knowing what I have to do and then doing it. Yet seeing healthcare as interventions turns people into passive patients. Most ill-health is preventable. The human machine needs to be active. Most NHS spending is on diseases with a large preventable component. Exercise works as both primary prevention (reducing the risk of ever getting the condition) and as tertiary prevention (reducing the risks of things going wrong when people already have a medical condition). More recently, I have been involved with work trying to help people prepare for surgery – this is astonishingly effective at reducing complications and reducing stay in hospital and costs. Organisations and institutions need to change to allow people to be active. Nationally, we cannot afford the social care costs that are looming from decades of inactivity. The best forms of activity are those that fit into your schedule – like electric-cycling to work. Please read my BMJ article ‘Focus on physical activity can help avoid unnecessary social care’ spelling out how much individuals and the UK economy would gain if people understood that getting old and getting unfit are two different processes – one being reversible.

It is not just about getting individuals to make good choices. I was a co-founder and first Chair of aiming to get more people to cycle and more facilities for cycling in Eastbourne. We still have hardly any facilities. We need local authorities to install them and we need communities to demand them.

Changing behaviour needs a way of building up small changes into a new normal schedule. For each person to be active needs: small goals, a plan for failure, the people around them to help and a supportive environment.

Scalett mid cycle ride

I have been involved in Women in Surgery and other initiatives to increase diversity and reduce bullying. There are parallels with supporting individuals to be their best future self in any sphere – this needs clarity of role/direction and support/respect by those around them. Sometimes we need to clarify a minimum expectation as well as an aspirational level. Work on ‘avoiding unconscious bias’ and reducing ‘micro-aggressions’ requires effort from everyone. I am proud of our award-winning initiative developing Doctors’ Assistants – who are trained to work alongside doctors, reducing the workload for doctors and improving patient care. For many projects, there are multiple wins. Better health and active travel means less financial cost and better sustainability – for individuals and for the country. We each only get one life. Everyone should get the best out of it. So here are some articles mainly about exercise, education and empowerment.

Previous or current member of committees at:

  • British Medical Association
  • Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
  • Medical Women’s Federation
  • Swim England
  • Office of Health Improvement & Disparities / Sport England
  • British Orthopaedic Association

Recent awards:

  • Listed 73rd in top 100 women in medical leadership 2021, Healthcare Leadership Academy
  • Awarded the Webb-Johnson Oration 2021 between the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Royal College of Surgeons of England.
  • BMA role model 2021
  • Skills for Health Gold Award 2017 for development of the Doctors’ Assistant role
  • 4th Dan Karate Black belt, 2014
  • Fellow of the Academy of Medical Educators, 2014
  • Kent Surrey & Sussex surgery school award, 2012

Current roles:

  • Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Deputy Director, Centre for Perioperative Care
  • President, Medical Women’s Federation

This website is to recycle my ideas. Please follow me on Twitter @scarlettmcnally, forward my website link to anyone who might like it, or contact me via Thank you! Scarlett McNally