Obituary: Betty Meikle OBE, senior pharmacist and Scouting official

Betty Meikle: Senior pharmacist who improved services in Glasgow hospitals, as well as leaving her mark on countless grateful Wolf Cubs
Betty Meikle: Senior pharmacist who improved services in Glasgow hospitals, as well as leaving her mark on countless grateful Wolf Cubs
Share this article
Have your say

Born: 1 August, 1928, in Lenzie. Died: 18 December, 2013, in Larbert, aged 85

Betty Meikle played a hands-on, highly influential role in the Scottish NHS during periods of radical change. She also nurtured countless Glasgwegian Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts and reached one of the movement’s highest ranks.

Meikle, who has died aged 85, was Chief Administrative Pharmaceutical Officer to Greater Glasgow Health Board (GGHB), where she developed an integrated hospital pharmacy service across the city and a clinical pharmacy service at ward level.

The resulting safer use of medicines given to patients from various routes enhanced the knowledge of junior doctors in therapeutics.

She also developed standard guidelines for the safe handling and administration of drugs used in chemotherapy, and protocols for the control and storage of medicines in wards and departments.

Meikle’s role extended into the community, where she was central to establishing the free supply and exchange of syringe needles for drug addicts to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, the supply of vaccines as part of an immunisation programme for school children and a campaign for the disposal of unwanted medicines.

Along with Professor David Lawson, Meikle established the GGHB area drugs and therapeutic committee and set up systems to optimise the use of resources. This was done through the evaluation of new medicines and their role in therapy, the rationalisation of medicine use in primary and secondary care throughout the health board by the introduction of medicinal formularies, and the review of the outcomes of committee decisions.

The committee provided the blueprint for the now internationally recognised Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Elizabeth Aitken Meikle was born on 1 August, 1928 in Lenzie and raised in Farnborough, Hampshire. She was very proud of her Kirkintilloch birth certificate and would have been delighted to know that by sheer chance, her passing was also registered there.

She studied pharmacy at Nottingham University and trained in Kingston-upon-Thames before returning to Scotland in 1951.

She became chief pharmacist responsible for the commissioning of the then-new Vale of Leven Hospital pharmacy department in Alexandria. She returned to Greater Glasgow Health Board in 1973 as district pharmaceutical officer for South Glasgow before being promoted to chief administrative pharmaceutical officer in 1978.

Throughout this period she also led a Cub Scout pack, then known as Wolf Cubs, in the 31st Glasgow Scout Group, dubbed Charlie Anderson’s Group. Based in a socially deprived area around Finnieston, the group held a bank of uniforms and kilts that were provided to boys whose parents could not afford them.

This was supplied after a Cub gained his Tenderfoot badge. When they were unavailable, Miss Meikle would buy green jumpers herself and give them to boys.

She was appointed Scottish Headquarters Commissioner for Cub Scouts in 1975, and took an active role in the planning and training of Cubs across Scotland. She was awarded the Silver Acorn in 1973 and in 1982 was given the Silver Wolf; Scouting’s highest award.

She was an Assistant Chief Commissioner of Scotland, and her wise counsel and great love of the movement was appreciated greatly by her Scouting colleagues.

Never known for procrastination, she would visit annually all hospital pharmacy departments in the health board area, not only to inspect them but to meet and thank her staff for their work. Current employees of that era still remember her with admiration as well as fondness.

Meikle was a member of several national groups and committees, including the Scottish Health Services Planning Council and the Grossart Committee on the Hospital Pharmaceutical Service in Scotland. She served on the committee of the Glasgow and West of Scotland branch of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, of which she was chair for many years. She was also an office-bearer of the Guild of Hospital Pharmacists, and was on the executive of the Scottish department of the Pharmaceutical Society, pursuing the professional interests of pharmacy in Scotland. In 1987 she was awarded the Evens Gold Medal for services to the profession.

She always acted on good ideas without delay or ado, and she would congratulate herself on any improvement, mimicking her mother’s parody of the Glaswegian glottal stop with “Tha’s be’a, Be’e” –that’s better, Betty. She had a story for almost every occasion she led or chaired and would often tell one after a tense meeting to lighten the mood.

In 1984, she was appointed OBE for her services to both pharmacy and the Scout Association. After retiring, she was a committee member of the NHS Retirement Fellowship.

A woman of strong and enduring faith, she was an elder in the Church of Scotland in Drymen, where she lived from 1960 until 1993, and at St Columba’s Church in Stirling, where she lived latterly.

Betty Meikle never married. She loved exotic travel, visiting among other destinations South America, Africa, South-east Asia and Antarctica. On trips such as these, she was joined by Dorothy Kinloch, her close friend and travelling companion of almost 40 years.