Irene Kennedy Morton (1931–2023)

Irene Morton

On 14 October 2023, Irene Kennedy Morton FPharmS, aged 92 years, of Glasgow, Scotland. Ms Morton became a Fellow of the Society in 1983. 


The death of Irene Morton on 14 October 2023 marks the passing of a pioneer of pharmacy in Scotland. Irene was a pharmacist for 36 years and, in that time she progressed through Glasgow Royal, the Victoria Infirmary to the south districts of Glasgow and, finally, the health board in times of great change with the appointment of general managers. Her professionalism was exemplary and, as well as being an outstanding manager, she was also an inspiration to those who worked alongside her.

Throughout her working life, Irene was a trailblazer. In 1984, she became assistant chief administrative pharmaceutical officer (CAPO) for south Glasgow, responsible for managing all hospital pharmacies and, latterly, all community service pharmacies. She was instrumental in shifting the focus away from solely manufacturing and supplying medicines towards providing high-quality, holistic patient care supporting the first MSc in clinical pharmacy in 1975. This course supported the development of many of the professions future practitioners. She also used her good offices to promote and help organise education and training ultimately appointing Marion Bennie to drive this forward. Under her guidance courses for preregistration students, hospital pharmacists and technicians throughout the West of Scotland were established. Irene’s influence undoubtedly aided the development of clinical pharmacy as a defined specialism. 

Irene had a number of substantive achievements to her name, including developing new pharmacy computing systems that culminated in the implementation of a computerised labelling and stock control system in all Glasgow hospitals. Throughout her career, she played an active role on several pharmaceutical committees. Always true to her belief in continued professional development, she was a founder member of the College of Pharmacy Practice and a leading member of the west of Scotland group of the Guild of Hospital Pharmacists.

She also served as chair of the Area Pharmaceutical Committee, an organisation that advised the health board on pharmacy matters. The committee had representation from hospital, community and academic professionals and promoted cross-sector working.

In recognition of her service, Irene was nominated as a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1983 and the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists awarded her the Evans silver medal in 1986. Not only did she win the medal, but she was the first Scottish pharmacist ever to do so. 

Irene was born on 5 January 1931 in Muirend, on the south side of Glasgow. She read pharmacy at the University of Glasgow, graduating with her BSc in 1954. She began her career at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, completing her preregistration year and becoming a member of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1955. Within a year of registering, she became a senior pharmacist in the sterile production unit at the Victoria Infirmary. She was appointed as the principal pharmacist at the Victoria in 1974 before being promoted again to the role of district pharmaceutical officer in 1978 based at the then Southern General Hospital. Her final promotion came in 1984 when she became assistant CAPO for the south of Glasgow.

Irene was a woman of great faith, having a lifelong connection with Netherlee Parish Church. In 1973, she was appointed as one of the first ‘lady elders’ of the Church of Scotland. 

Above all, Irene was a remarkable woman and an exemplary public servant. She touched the lives of many people in unforgettable ways. She leaves behind a legacy that embodies professional excellence, loyal friendship and an enduring love for the people and places that enriched her life. She will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her, but her spirit lives on in the lives of those whom she inspired both professionally and personally. 

Christine McGowan 

I came into Irene’s life when I moved to West Glasgow District in 1983. I was new to Scotland and pharmacy management and Irene was district pharmacist for the South Glasgow who — together with Jim Bunney in the North, Jean Fleming in the East and Betty Meikle, CAPO for Greater Glasgow Health Board — helped build my knowledge skills and experience. Her district included two large district general hospitals, the Victoria Infirmary and Southern General Hospital (SGH), mental health services at Leverndale and maternity services at Rutherglen, all of which had pharmacies along with a community service pharmacy at Leverndale and long-stay hospitals. Irene was always helpful and supportive and helped me settle in.

In her career, Irene had adapted to several restructuring of health boards and to challenges posed by general managers with no NHS experience, along with many changes in pharmacy and medicines legislation. In the 1980s, Greater Glasgow Health Board experienced year-on-year funding reductions as the model changed from funding existing beds in Glasgow to funding the population of health boards outside Glasgow with fewer beds. Delivering more with less resources was a major challenge for us all for almost ten years.

The financial pressures and advent of general management created demands for computerisation and Irene wanted to implement the ‘Grampian Computer Pharmacy’ system, designed for one pharmacy, and make it work across all 20 or so hospital pharmacies in Glasgow, starting with the SGH. It took a few years and lots of hard work with computer experts, financial and pharmacist colleagues because the system dictated many changes in practice, but she delivered. 

In 1989, I took over the CAPO role at a stressful time with staff freezes, drug bill pressures and government demands for clinical pharmacy and formularies, and medicines handling policies. Irene was a reliable and helpful friend whose opinion I could trust and support I always had. She made constructive suggestions and looked to support and promote her staff to help.

Irene retired in 1991 after many future pharmacy leaders had passed through her hands and benefited from her advice and support. She had influenced staff to apply for the first MSc in clinical pharmacy at Strathclyde University from 1975 and appointed and organised clinical training programmes for two students on the MSC clinical pharmacy course each year until her retirement.

She also employed four preregistration graduates each year and supported the study days and training programmes for pharmacy staff in the six West of Scotland Health Boards, from Dumfries to Forth Valley, including 12 study days for more than 40 hospital and community pharmacy preregistration graduates, and several for hospital pharmacists and technicians at the Walton Suite at the Southern. She later guided a principal pharmacist in education and training to run these courses, a principal pharmacist to develop clinical audit in more than 200 Glasgow community pharmacies. Leverndale Community Service Pharmacy ran these services board-wide to clinics, schools and for vaccination campaigns.

Irene’s contribution to the people of Glasgow, pharmacy and many pharmacists, technicians and support staff who passed through her departments were immense and so many will be grateful for her support. It is fitting that she had a long and happy retirement and, in true style, had planned her funeral meticulously. It was a privilege to know her.

Howard McNulty

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2023, Vol 311, No 7980;311(7980)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.201781

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