On 22 September 2023, Nina Barnett FPharmS, aged 58 years, of Greater London. Ms Barnett registered with the Society in 1987. She was a Fellow of the Society.
Many in the pharmacy family will be heartbroken to hear about the death of my dear friend and former colleague Nina. I wanted to share my own recollections of Nina both professionally and personally.
I met Nina in 1991 as a junior pharmacist at St Mary’s Hospital in London. Although only a few years older than me, I immediately knew that I wanted to be just like her, in terms of presence, personality and a wonderful ability to relate to patients and colleagues. When Nina left, we lost touch for a while, but reconnected some years later while she was a consultant pharmacist for older people and I was looking for a peer mentor in my own intermediate care role.
Nina and I had a lot in common professionally, which led to us being a double act in terms of speaking, recordings, teaching and training, running webinars and conferences over many years. We also co-authored many peer-reviewed publications together, one highlight being joint guest editors on a themed journal issue on the topic of deprescribing. Our shared passion for person-centred care, shared decision-making, raising the profile of pharmacy and helping practitioners with their self-care was used widely, for example, with undergraduates and postgraduates, hospitals, the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education and the NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service, where we finally worked on the same team from 2018. It was fitting that Nina’s 20-year publishing contribution to the profession culminated in her achieving PhD by publication in 2017. Nina was instrumental in encouraging me to follow the same path, and she was a strength to me throughout, including when my father died.
Being peer mentors led to us being close friends, and I can testify that Nina was a rock for me at times of difficulty in my own life, not least in becoming a parent to a severely disabled child. As I look back over our WhatsApp exchanges and recall our many and regular conversations, Nina was kind, insightful, a great listener, empathic and non-judgmental. Many in the profession will testify to these qualities, and the words ‘inspire’ and ‘inspirational’ are the most common that I am hearing right now from many across the UK. Nina had the gift of being able to make individuals feel that they were valuable and had her absolute attention. As a magistrate, these gifts were employed to the full.
These gifts also made her a great coach, which was another subject close to her heart and which was deployed by the NHS ‘Looking After You Too’ coaching programme for NHS professionals. Nina recommended me for this work, and we became peer supervisors, dealing with some tough situations that our NHS colleagues face until just a few months ago.
Nina’s love and care for her family was evident throughout our friendship, exemplified by her more recently taking a sabbatical to support them. As I approach retirement next year, I had hoped to maintain my links with Nina, and I am devastated that my best friend in the profession is no longer here. Of small consolation is the legacy that Nina leaves.
One of her few professional regrets is not being able to systemically implement the concept of ‘clinical supervision’ across the profession. Nina’s legacy is assured, but I encourage senior pharmacy leaders to consider turning this urgent need into a reality and acknowledging Nina’s foundational contribution.
Nina, you were the best — as a pharmacist, academic and coach, but more importantly, as a friend, wife, sister, mother and grandmother.
The NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service is collecting for anyone who wishes to make a charitable donation. Please email LNWH-tr.MUS-SpecialistPharmacyService@nhs.net if you would like to participate.
I am also offering to get members of the pharmacy family on Zoom to share support and memories through guided reflections. If this would be helpful, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Jubraj, associate director, medicines use and safety, NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service
I wish to share my heartfelt thoughts and condolence on the very sad and sudden demise of my amazing friend and mentor, Nina, after her short battle with cancer on 22 September 2023.
No words can describe the sense of loss I’ve been enduring during these few days. I don’t need to describe who Nina was as she was a towering figure in the pharmacy world, both nationally and internationally.
Nina came into my life when I first came to the UK to do my master’s degree in 1999, first as a mentor, but she quickly became a very close family friend. She rose through the ranks among her peers as a mentor, coach, leader and most of all as a wonderful person.
No words can fill her praise as she had risen to such a lofty position. Nina had a huge heart of compassion and warmth for her profession, her loving family, friends, colleagues, her patients and the wider NHS family. These attributes earned her to be a beacon in the profession and, in her own words, “a pioneer in patient-centred approach in patient consultations and medicines adherence using health coaching methods”.
She was also a justice of the peace and a magistrate, which showcased her multiple talents, testament to her aspirations to make society a caring haven. She leaves behind a tremendous legacy for us all to look up to.
In her final words to me, she mentioned she would have loved to continue doing her coaching work, which very much she enjoyed. Sadly, that was not meant to last longer.
Nina will continue to live in our beautiful memories and I hope her work will continue to carry on through others in the field. I wish her loving family the deepest of sympathies in the immeasurable loss of her as a caring daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, sister, aunt and grandmother.
Fazludeen Mustafa Kamaludeen
Nina Barnett was one of the first appointed consultant pharmacists in 2005. As part of that special group of early pharmacy trail blazers, Nina and colleagues set about, not to demonstrate their elite status as consultant pharmacists, but rather to share, coach, lead and inspire the rest of us to aim higher and be better.
In reality, Nina had been en route to becoming a consultant pharmacist before the concept existed and from the start of her career at Northwick Park Hospital. It was here that she recognised the benefits of having pharmacists review the medicines of older people and optimise their medicines before discharging the patient home. She was a formidable champion for transfer of care, shared decision making and personalised care. Listening to and understanding what was important to the patient became Nina’s principle of practice.
Nina’s passion for person-centred care was evident long before these concepts became mainstream. She demonstrated how, by working with patients using shared decision making and health coaching techniques, we could reach agreed outcomes that worked for the patient and the clinician.
Nina took the leadership component of her consultant pharmacist status very seriously. She didn’t miss an opportunity to teach, present and share with the rest of the profession how we make shared decision making and deprescribing part of everyday pharmacy practice.
Many of us have joined this campaign, but Nina, alongside her friend and fellow consultant Lelly Oboh, were pioneering it long before the rest of us. They made a formidable female double act. There will be pharmacists today who haven’t had the privilege of meeting either of them but who have been shaped by their concepts, such as the three-stool model of structured medication reviews or the patient-centred approach to polypharmacy.
Her warm and inspiring approach crossed all healthcare sectors, and she touched the lives of thousands of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, geriatricians, doctors, nurses and, most importantly, patients.
Nina was an exemplary role model. Not content with reaching consultant status, she then went on to achieve a PhD by publication, recognising her writing and research on personalising the medication review. Later, she became Professor Barnett, with visiting posts at King’s College London and then Kingston University. She was incredibly proud of these achievements, but once again used this pride not to cement her own position, but rather to encourage others to do similar.
Nina’s work as part of the NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service allowed her to reach pharmacy professionals all around the country. In recent years, Nina turned her attention to primary care pharmacists. She saw some of the struggles that faced pharmacists in general practice who did not always have the supervision and mentorship needed to excel in this new role. She was adamant that this could be addressed with a national peer mentoring support arrangement and was keen to be part of its implementation. I sincerely hope we can honour this legacy.
A theme that emerged so powerfully this week, after so many of us were so devastated upon learning that Nina had died, was her incredible kindness. Hundreds of people approach me via social media to tell me about how Nina had picked them up when they were struggling. This support often involved her cooking them dinner and then coaching them through their challenge. In the same gentle, supportive, solution-focused way that she worked with her patients, she also worked with fellow colleagues to help empower them to manage difficult situations or career lows that seemed insurmountable. Her generosity of spirit and her almost infinite capacity for caring shone through those heartbroken messages. I hope Nina’s family take some solace in how many colleagues she has supported over the years. Very few people are universally liked in their professional lives, but I would argue that Nina was universally loved.
Family was clearly so important to Nina, and she beamed with pride whenever she spoke about being a grandma.
If you are lucky in your career, you get to work with people who are smarter than you, sharper than you, wiser than you and better than you. But they might share a passion and desire for something that you feel is important too. I was lucky in that I got to meet and work with Nina Barnett and we shared a passion for wanting patients (especially older patients) to have a better experience of their medicine taking. It was an honour and a privilege to be in Nina’s orbit and I, along with all those she inspired, will do our best to continue her legacy. Losing Nina all too soon, as we have, leaves a considerable hole in pharmacy leadership, as well as in the hearts of all who knew her.
Nina was a generous and inspirational pharmacist, who will be much missed by all who knew her.
Nina played an instrumental part in the development of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) mentoring programme. She worked at RPS when we formed in 2010/2011, leading a project to implement mentoring support for the profession. She continued to support the ongoing enhancement of RPS mentoring, sharing her own mentoring experiences in blogs and pharmacy publications, producing guidance for the profession, and delivering training for new mentors. Her expertise in mentoring and coaching was invaluable; she was a critical friend and a source of inspiration. She was additionally a mentor for many pharmacists, including senior leaders within pharmacy. Nina was keen for the whole profession to have access to mentors for their personal, career and professional development.
Nina led on the creation of a collection of RPS returning-to-practice guidance and support tools for pharmacists, providing essential advice to those who had taken a break from their careers and were looking to update their skills and knowledge.
She was also in the first cohort of pharmacists to be recognised as an RPS Faculty Fellow in 2014. She was passionate about developing the profession and had a key role in the construction of a curriculum for older people, and many other curricula documents — vital resources for pharmacists who were building their portfolio for assessment and credentialing through the RPS Faculty.
Nina was one of the first consultant pharmacists to be appointed in the UK. She went on and founded the Consultant Pharmacist Group in 2008, chairing the group until 2010. She led several initiatives to promote the role of consultant pharmacists and continually advocated for the role to be formally recognised in the workplace, with employers and within educational structures. She was a truly remarkable leader — innovative, passionate, focused and caring. New consultant posts are regularly approved and pharmacists credentialed as consultant pharmacists by RPS, which can be attributed to Nina’s vision and work in this area. She returned as co-chair of the Consultant Pharmacist Group, with Nicola Stoner, in 2015, and only recently stepped down earlier in 2023 due to ill health.
She most recently worked with colleagues at the RPS to improve clinical skills learning for pharmacists, producing a series of evidence-based eLearning content, which promotes the principles of patient safety and centred care. She was also hugely supportive of RPS work on inclusion and diversity, reflecting her own core values and beliefs about being inclusive in her approach and putting people first.
Nina was a role model for many that had the pleasure of knowing her and leaves a legacy which RPS and others in the profession will continue to take forward.
Paul Bennett, chief executive, and Helen Chang, head of professional development, both at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
I have worked with Nina since February 2010, leading the care of older people and stroke services. Nina was my line manager, coach, mentor and, above all, my friend. I want to share some of the work that Nina and our team have been undertaking for care of older people and stroke since I joined in 2010.
Nina started her career as a junior pharmacist at Northwick Park Hospital in 1987 on Gaskell ward (then an older people’s ward) with Michael Denham (who later became president of the British Geriatrics Society), who included her on his ward round from her first day. This had a profound impact on her, as she witnessed a multidisciplinary team approach and the makings of person-centred care. This started her journey in older people and how clinical pharmacists can be equipped with the skills to engage in a meaningful way with patients.
Nina has broken many a glass ceiling, not just for pharmacy, but also for women in the profession. She achieved many firsts: she was one of the first consultant pharmacist in the UK, supplementary prescriber then non-medical prescriber. Her contributions to pharmacy were wide reaching and she achieved many awards. She has worked with many different professions, such as doctors, pharmacists, students (medical and pharmacy), nurses, patients, lawyers, academics, clinical pharmacologists and disability advocates, to name a few. These interactions usually culminated in a publication or three. Over the years, these publications proved to be fruitful enough for her to gain a PhD through publication, which describes the impact that Nina’s professional career has had.
At Northwick Park Hospital, Nina was the lead consultant for older people and stroke. Under her leadership and guidance, the care of older people and stroke ward service increased from three wards in 2010 to now ten wards across two hospital sites, which included the pharmacy integrated care service. The service developed at Northwick Park Hospital — previously known as the ‘integrated medicines management service — was initiated to identify patients and assist patients who had medication support requirements, either from intentional or unintentional non-adherence. This service won the 2015 Health Service Journal award for clinical innovation having been deemed to have a great impact in all NHS hospitals and be easily transferable. It showed that a £1 investment in a pharmacy integrated care service pharmacist would save the trust £3 through preventable medicines-related readmissions.
Nina was at the forefront in developing services and advising on older people service within primary and secondary care, having local, regional and national advisory roles on care homes, medicines compliance aids, polypharmacy, frailty services and ran workshops for GPs and community pharmacists.
When the hyper-acute stroke unit services (HASUs) were expanded across London in 2009, Nina had the foresight to ensure that pharmacy was not forgotten about in the planning and finance (which it was). She fought to ensure that the Northwick Park HASU would have a Band 8a senior pharmacist to lead the pharmacy service. Together with Helen Williams, cardiovascular pharmacy consultant, they both ensured that pharmacists were included in all eight new HASUs — quite a feat.
Nina and I then went on to publish quite a few well cited papers: ‘Supporting continuity of care: post-stroke hospital discharge referral to the community pharmacy new medicines service‘ in December 2013; ‘Tailoring medication formulations for patients with dysphagia‘ in November 2016; and ‘How to support patients with aphasia and medicines‘ in February 2018. The medication management for dysphagia patients paper has led to specialist guidance and for the first time, pharmacists are mentioned in the stroke guidelines to review medication formulation and administration.
Nina was a qualified health coach (and a magistrate) and introduced health coaching and counselling to her department, initially to help pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to their develop skills in communicating with patients, and later holding sessions with the wider medical team.
When COVID-19 struck, Nina was very much at the frontline. Whilst she may have not been on the hospital wards, she was very much present in looking after our mental health. As many of the senior pharmacists were seconded to ICU, Nina had weekly debriefing sessions, offering us protected time and space to deal with our experiences. Together with the trust’s psychology team, Nina provided a much needed service to us. Nina offered her services to other teams and also to individuals, right through the pandemic. Her focus on our mental health and wellbeing was innovative and much needed.
Nina’s last big project was to embed person-centred care in our consultations with patients. Nina was a national expert on person-centred care, contributing to the national guidance and training, and published many papers on person-centred care. At Northwick Park Hospital, we undertook a pilot project to embed person-centred care in pharmacy consultations. Nina recognised the challenges that electronic patient information systems would pose to our interactions with patients, and she wanted person-centred care to be driven through all levels of training. This project was shortlisted for the 2023 Health Safety Journal Patient Safety Awards, held in Manchester in June 2023.
Nina has been called a visionary, a trailblazer, a titan, an inspiration — she was it all. She has influenced so many people over the years, evident from all the tributes. The pharmacy profession and the trust is poorer without her. Her legacy lives on in the work that we continue to carry out — through the services she started and the pharmacy teams she trained.
Paresh Parmar, lead pharmacist, care of older people and stroke, Northwick Park Hospital