Christopher Barrett (1939–2022)

On 2 May 2022, Christopher Barrett, aged 82 years, of Horley, Surrey. Mr Barrett was a Fellow of the Society.


After graduating from the pharmacy school within Chelsea College of Science and Technology (which later merged with King’s College London) and working in several different hospitals, Chris Barrett started as the deputy chief pharmacist at Westminster Hospital in 1965. He was pivotal in helping to start the process of change to the pharmacy service based on needs.  After an initial period of working with clinical staff to identify problems and clarify needs, a programme of major changes to services, ways of working and training for all pharmacy staff was initiated, together with associated changes to the management of medicines on the wards. 

Whilst at the hospital, he obtained an MSc by research from Chelsea, which involved joint working with a dermatologist on the percutaneous absorption of corticosteroids. Throughout his working life he supported staff in undertaking and publishing research in a wide variety of subjects.
In 1968, Chris took up the post of group chief pharmacist based at The London Hospital in Whitechapel.  During his subsequent 30 years of managing hospital pharmacy services in large parts of east London, he continued to be innovative, developing national firsts or ‘early adopted’ practices, including:

  • Pharmacy centralised cytotoxic reconstitution service in the late 1970s to ensure the safe handling of cytotoxic drugs.Twenty years later this moved to ward-based cytotoxic reconstitution in an isolator, an example of his drive to ensure pharmacy services were delivered from a location that enabled optimal care for patients;
  • Implementation of ward pharmacy services in the 1970s, which then moved to a clinically focused service in the mid 1980s;
  • Development of links with the school of pharmacy at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This culminated in the setting up of an Academic Pharmacy Practice Unit in the early 1990s;
  • Obtaining funding for several directorate pharmacists, focusing on both clinical care and management of medicines expenditure;
  • Setting up multidisciplinary medicines committees, including several specific sub groups, such as one focusing on the approval of new medicines applications;
  • A medicines formulary in the early 1980s;
  • Centralised TPN services in the late 1970s;
  • A combined prescription/administration drug chart in the early 1970s. Various editions of this paper chart were then used for nearly 50 years;
  • Development of roles and responsibilities of technical staff with a focus on enabling pharmacists to move to more clinical roles; 
  • Working with local GPs in the 1980s to improve seamless care between hospital and community for some drugs, evolving into more formal shared care;
  • Developing one stop dispensing in the 1990s, enabling greater use of patients’ own medicines and reducing delayed discharges.

For the majority of his time at The London, he also managed hospital pharmacy services in Newham, meaning he had responsibility for a wide variety of sites and staff, giving him an incredibly full and complex diary. Again, a wide variety of service innovations was introduced across Newham.

He worked through several organisational and pharmacy structural changes, which required him to reapply for his post on numerous occasions — the last being his appointment as chief pharmacist for Barts and The London NHS Trust a few years before his retirement in 1998.

However, his main legacy is arguably not the direct service improvements he implemented, but the large number of staff he inspired with a love and enthusiasm for pharmacy, many of whom went on to have very successful careers themselves. He was a great advocate of good management and was enthusiastic in promoting some key management texts to the staff. Even junior pharmacists received training in basic management skills as he considered it to be so important. Staff were often attracted to working for him, as the team was known to be friendly and supportive, with a strong focus on training and development for everyone. He was well known for always leaving a clear desk when he went home in the evening, much to the amazement of the team!

Other substantial achievements within pharmacy include:

  • Fellowship of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Fellowship of the School of Pharmacy, University of London
  • Founding member of  European Society of Clinical Pharmacy
  • Founding member of the College of Pharmacy Practice
  • Examiner for the Society of Apothecaries technician examinations

Away from work he was very much a family man and his life centred on his wife Heather and his three children: Timothy, Jonathon and Elizabeth. He was a keen gardener and good with his hands, acquiring bricklaying and roofing skills; his main hobbies were furniture restoration and wood turning. Many of his family, friends and charities have benefited from the beautiful wood pieces he produced and furniture he restored. After retirement he gave a lot of his time to charitable work as a volunteer for the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Samaritans and the local foodbank.

Chris passed away peacefully at home on 2 May 2022, surrounded by close family. He will be remembered as someone who earned much love and respect from all those who worked for him and many others, both in pharmacy and other professions. He was a wonderful man: gentle, modest, generous, caring, supportive, non-judgemental and always giving. 

Jan Tomes, Maggie Oliver and Jane Hough

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2022, Vol 308, No 7961;308(7961)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.144122


  • Brendan O'Sullivan

    I note Chris' passing with great sadness. What a lovely tribute to him by his colleagues!
    I count myself as one of the "large number of staff he inspired with a love and enthusiasm for pharmacy".
    Whilst it is some years back, I still remember his quiet wisdom and gentle advice.

  • sharonmaryhart

    A truly inspiration man who had a significant influence on my career and the emphasis I have placed on management and leadership training - I mention him always when I speak to pharmacists about the importance of leadership. I wrote to him a few years ago to thank him and was delighted to receive a response. May you RIP 'Mr Barrett'.

    • Ann Trice

      Chris was deputy chief pharmacist at Westminster hospital, where I & three others Madeleine , Carolyn, Claire started our preregistration year. He inspired, encouraged and imbued a love of hospital work. Two of us ultimately became ward pharmacists at Westminster. My husband also worked with Chris’ in later years. It is with sadness that we have lost a major innovator to hospital pharmacy procedures.We will always be grateful to have known him.

  • Gary Boorman

    It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Chris Barrett. I had the great fortune to spend my formative years under his mentorship at the London .His courtesy, sincerity and belief in his chosen profession were inspirational.
    Chris seconded me to the London Jewish Hospital where I was introduced to the nursing staff and found my wife; for which I remain eternally grateful.
    Fortunately we were able to correspond in his latter years and learnt of his many many interests.
    Our thoughts are with his children and grand children.
    Marie and Gary Boorman

  • David Wiseman

    I am saddened to read about the passing of Chris Barrett, especially to have read this two years too late.
    I too count myself among the "the large number of staff he inspired with a love and enthusiasm for pharmacy, many of whom went on to have very successful careers themselves." Mr. Barrett had a huge influence on my career, encouraging me, as a preregistration pharmacist at the London Hospital, to pursue a career in research.

    I can attest to his "enthusias[m] in promoting some key management texts to the staff" and recall my puzzlement at why a preregistration curriculum supposedly focussed on clinical and hospital pharmacy, spent so much time on "off-topic" texts. But with his warm style who could not comply cheerfully, if not humouringly, with Mr. Barrett? Nonetheless, Mr. Barrett seemed to have overstepped the event horizon of sanity by introducing Edward de Bono's Art of Lateral Thinking and assigning us the task of coming up with an example of its practical implementation. It was precisely this task that was directly responsible for the trajectory of my career. Applying de Bono to a book I was reading forced me to ask a certain question, diverting me to a research path completely different from the one I had planned and away from the paths typically followed by research pharmacists.

    Some 40 years later, I have deep appreciation to Chris Barrett for effectively launching a most rewarding and productive career. Perhaps more importantly I am grateful for Mr. Barrett's lessons in leadership and integrity, recalling particularly how he had time and encouragement for everyone in his team from his senior staff, to his pharmacy technicians, to the bottle washing assistants in non-sterile manufacturing and his prereg students.

    With deep condolences to Mr. Barrett's family, his former colleagues and staff
    David Wiseman, Dallas, Texas.


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