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Graham Calder

Standing on the shoulders of giants is a well known concept when discussing the advancement of professional services through building on the pioneering work of others. Sadly one of the giants of pharmacy, Graham Calder, died on 28 August 2018.

Graham was a true visionary who played a leading role in the in the foundation of clinical pharmacy in the UK. His boundless energy, piercing analytical mind and astonishing knowledge placed him in an ideal position to address how to better utilise pharmacists in order to fulfil a critical role in contributing to the safe and effective use of medicines. He was a man of high intellect and a highly skilled negotiator and debater.

Born in Glasgow in July 1933, he attended Bellahouston Academy and then after a short spell as a technician in the blood transfusion service he continued his full time education at University og Glasgow, where he graduated with a degree in pharmacy in 1957. He was placed on the pharmaceutical register in July 1957. After that, he held a number of junior and senior pharmacy posts in the west of Scotland before being appointed group chief pharmacist to Aberdeen General and Orkney and Shetland Hospitals. It was in this post that he worked with medical, nursing and pharmacy colleagues to develop a novel method for the prescribing and administration of medicines in hospital. This became known as the Aberdeen Kardex system, and resulted in significant improvement in prescribing safety and reduced drug administration errors. This system was rolled out throughout Scotland and other parts of the UK and is still in use today. As part of this research, Graham introduced the concept of the ‘ward pharmacist’, whose function was to review medicines usage and supply and contribute to the safe use of medicines. This revolutionary feature of incorporating the pharmacist into the ward team was the first step, and a critical one, in the development of clinical pharmacy in the UK.

After Aberdeen, Graham was appointed the first regional pharmaceutical officer to the West Midlands Regional Health Authority, where he continued to develop pharmaceutical services. In 1975, he moved to the government’s Department of Health in London, as deputy chief pharmacist based. At this time, he commuted daily from his home in Solihull into London — more than a two-hour journey each way. He used this time to successfully study for a degree in law, which he found useful in his civil service work.

In 1982, Graham returned to Scotland and was appointed chief pharmacist at the Scottish office in Edinburgh. The post was primarily as a professional adviser to Scottish ministers, civil servants and the NHS. However, within a short amount of time, key senior civil servants were so impressed with Graham’s ability that he was also given a senior administrative role in charge of a newly created policy division for the formation and execution policy on all aspects of pharmacy and medicines. This was the first combined professional and administrative post of its kind for government pharmacists, and was viewed by his peers as a great feather in Graham’s cap for gaining such recognition — not only for himself, but his profession.This additional role allowed Graham to introduce the Control of Entry system for NHS community pharmacy services in Scotland. The system provided a stable financial and practice base to support the development of enhanced professional services to complement NHS dispensing.

Pharmacy education, and continuing professional development in particular, was a major interest of Graham’s. It was this that drove him to establish in Scotland the Post Qualification Education Board, which now supports all aspects of pharmacy education and has served as a role model to be implemented by other health departments throughout the UK. Payment of the community pharmacy contract, including the reimbursement of prescribed medicines, was a complex area which Graham addressed by the establishment of a specific post and dedicated unit to increase the efficiency and accuracy of paying contractors. This unit has continued to develop NHS pharmacoepidemiology services.

I was appointed as Graham’s deputy in 1990 and succeeded as chief pharmaceutical officer and deputy director when he retired in 1993. There was never a dull moment when working with Graham as he continually sought new opportunities for his profession. He had a wealth of knowledge regarding the workings of government and the civil service and was an outstanding mentor. He developed a number of pharmacists who have gone on to make their own mark on the profession. His contribution has been widely recognised. He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Electronicjuice in 1977, and was a recipient of the Merck Sharpe and Dohme awards, and the Schering Award of the College of Pharmacy Practice. He was also a visiting professor at Strathclyde and Robert Gordon universities.

After his retirement he undertook research into pharmacy remuneration for which he was awarded an MPhil by Robert Gordon University. His contribution was enormous and will continue to benefit not only his profession but also the wider public.

He was always good company, enjoyed social occasions and had a fine sense of humour. He was a family man who was supported by his wife Ena, who died in 2016. My thoughts are with his two children, Alan and Christine, and his five grandchildren. Graham was great admirer of the national bard, Robert Burns, and enjoyed Burns suppers. Many of us will recall Graham in his kilt, glass of malt whisky in hand, proposing the traditional toast: “Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us? Damn few, and they’re a’ died!”

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205473

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