Who Are We & What Do We Do?

The Health Improvement Team are based at Grantfield Offices in Lerwick, however they all visit local health practices and communities throughout the length and breadth of Shetland. Everyone in the team can deliver different topics such as Healthy Eating, Smoking Cessation, Mental Health, Physical Activity and Alcohol and Drugs Information. If there is a programme you are interested in signing up to, visit the relevant health topic tab on our home page to find out more. In the meantime, find out more about what each member of the team does below...

Dr Susan Laidlaw, Consultant in Public Health Medicine FFPH

Susan is the most senior public health professional based in Shetland with overall responsibility for public health and health improvement work in Shetland. She provides professional leadership and specialist advice within  all three domains of public health: health protection, health improvement and healthcare public health with specific responsibility within NHS Shetland for the following main areas:

  • Health Protection including communicable disease control, surveillance, environmental hazards, vaccination & immunisation, Control of Infection Committee
  • Resilience and emergency planning
  • Epidemilogy
  • Public Health elements of cancer screening, aortic aneurysm screening and Detect Cancer Early Programme
  • Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses
  • Gender Based Violence

Susan also provides public health input to a number of areas of multi-agency and partnership working including:

  • The IJB's Joint Strategic Commissioning Plan
  • Inequalities, povery, exclusion (including welfare reform, financial resilience, fuel poverty, LGBT+)
  • Chair of Mental Health Partnership and Domestic Abuse Partnership
  • Community Justice Partnership, Community Safety and Resilience Board

She provides consultant level health protection advice during the daytime and as part of the Islands out of hours rota covering Shetland , Orkney and the Western Isles. Susan also has some specific roles as a doctor including Infection Control Doctor, Responsible Office for the Public Health Act and ‘Medical Inspector for the purposes of the Immigration Act 1971’. She is a member of the Area Clinical Forum and Area Medical Committee.


Elizabeth Robinson, Public Health Principal

Elizabeth is the Public Health Principal for Shetland and keeps us all right in the office. She provides professional leadership, co-ordination and specialist advice on public health, health protection and health improvement within NHS Shetland and across community planning partners. She works alongside many other partners to support and develop NHS Shetland's policies and plans to improve and protect the health of the population and quality of healthcare.  She is part of the public health on-call rota, so will respond out-of-hours to emergency planning incidents and health protection issues.

Wendy McConnachine - Alcohol & Drugs Development Officer



Melanie Hawkins, Health Improvement Team Leader

Mel is based at the Grantfield offices and is a Health Improvement Team Leader. She can take any of the health programmes that we offer, however she takes the lead Smoking Cessation Programme. The programme offers free support and materials to help you or others to stop smoking for good. Her top 3 tips are:

  • Get support
  • Come in to have a chat - there's no pressure to sign up!
  • Small changes to your routine can have a bigger impact overall - for example, increasing your physical activity levels helps you to quit and stay quit!

Mel also works with the Employment & Health Programme which helps employers ensure their workforce is staying fit and healthy as well as getting people back into work from unemployment. She says:

  • Being in meaningful employment is good for your health
  • Address any issues before signing off sick
  • There is local support to help people get back into work



Nicola Balfour, Health Improvement Team Leader

Nicola is the Health Improvement Team Leader that covers all of the North of Mainland Shetland. Nicola's background lies in Weight Management and Nutrition, which ties in with programmes that we run such as Counterweight and SCOT Programme (Scottish Childhood Obesity Programme). She also co-leads the IY Programme (Incredible Years – training for parents). Her main tips for healthy weight are:

  • It's not about calorie counting or diet fads - a healthy, stable diet is all that's needed.
  • Come for advice and information on good nutrition - no pressure to sign up to a programme.
  • There are wider health benefits to healthy eating including helping with your self empowerment!


Jill Charleson, Health Improvement Practitioner

Jill is based in the Lerwick Health Centre and every two weeks heads out to the Walls and Bixter Health Centres. She too can see people for any of the health programmes that we run, but takes the lead on Healthy Working Lives, which is a scheme to help employers create a safer, healthier and more motivated workforce.  Jill summaries the work she does with these 3 helpful points:

  • Businesses are more likely to be financially successful if their staff are healthy
  • Involve staff in decisions about your healthy workplace health plan
  • With the amount of time everyone spends at work, it is a good opportunity to invest in yout health.


Lauren Peterson, Health Improvement Practitioner

Lauren is the health improvement practitioner based in Yell, Unst & Fetlar. Like the others, she can see people that are intested in any of the programmes that we run, however her topic of interest in physical activity, helping to set up programmes to get Shetland active! This is through local challenges, walk leader training and much more. She has so much advice for getting active, but has chosen these top 3 active tips to get you started:

  • Doing something is better than doing nothing
  • The biggest benefit can be seen from the most inactive people starting to get moving
  • Break up yout time spent being sedentry to see big health benefits.


Fern Jamieson - Health Improvement Practitioner

Fern is the practitioner based at Scalloway Health Centre and a part time Dietetic so it is no surprise that her topic of interest is also weight management and nutrition. Like the rest of the health improvement team she can see anyone for any of the programmes that we offer, however she is the driving force behing our Weight Management programmes, helping to keep Shetland healthy and full of good nutrition knowledge. Her top tips are:

  • FACTS, not FADS
  • Make nutrition work for you and your lifestyle - no restrictions
  • We are here to help everybody of all ages and stages!


Astryd Jamieson - Health Improvement Practitioner

Astryd is the practitioner for Northmavine and Whalsay, and is based in Hillswick Health Centre every Tuesday and Whalsay Health Centre on Fridays. Her background is in psychology, specifically health psychology, and has a keen interest in emotional wellbeing. Although her interest is in this topic, she too can see people for any of the topics that we offer. This ties in with the ‘Behavioural Activation’ and ‘Beating the Blues’ programmes that the team run. She is there to speak to for anyone feeling down and can offer some helpful advice such as:

  • Emotional distress is a meaningful, functional and understandable response to life circumstances.
  • Our mental wellbeing needs looking after like our physical health, and there are lots of ways we can do this, but it's important to find ways which work for you.
  • We are here to help, whether you need support with maintaining emotional wellbeing or help with finding the most appropriate service for your needs.


Kathleen Anderson - Health Improvement Practitioner

Kathleen covers all of South Mainland Shetland and is based at Levenwick Health Centre on Thursdays. She too can see people for any of the programmes that we run, however she expertise in the area of Sexual Health & BBV’s, offering advice, education and materials around the sexual health area. Her 3 tips around sexual health are:

  • Respect & consent are key to any relationship
  • Safe sex is more than just avoiding pregnancy
  • It's good to talk, don't be embarrassed


Shelley Sandison - Falls Prevention Officer

Falls Prevention coordinator.

Shelley is currently setting up falls prevention programmes throughout Shetland in each local community. The programme is aimed at older adults with either a falls history, risk of falls and/or reduced balance. The programme is an Otago strength and balance exercise class with falls related educational talks afterwards. The programme runs weekly for 8 weeks. After the 8 week programme they will be referred to their local leisure centre for maintenance classes to carry on exercising.

The programme has a range of benefits:

  • Improved strength and balance,
  • Confidence,
  • Independence,
  • Social benefits
  • It enables people to live longer, healthier, lives at home or in a homely setting by reducing falls.


For more information you can give Shelley an email on shelley.sandison@nhs.net or shet-hb.fallsprevention@nhs.net

Claire Morris  - Resource Officer

Claire has taken on the role of the resource officer, helping to keep the office and the practitioners running smoothly. She deals with the materials, resources and is the first port of call for anyone wanting to contact the Health Improvement Team.


For more information on any of the programmes that we run or if you would like to speak to someone from the Health Improvement Team send us an email on info@healthyshetland.com or call us on 01595 807494