It is with great sadness that we learnt of the unexpected passing of Frances Rooney after a short illness. As a noted leader within the pharmacy profession in Scotland, she was admired for her professional and personal integrity, her tenacity and resilience.
Talking to a range of people about Frances, it is clear that she was at ease with establishing relationships. She showed an interest in people in all areas of her work, regardless of their role or position: it was the person who mattered most to her. She motivated people and had confidence that they would achieve. She was talented at nurturing individuals to develop and reach their potential, even when the individuals had doubts themselves.
As director of pharmacy at NHS Tayside, Frances led the pharmacy service from June 2013. However, she began her career as a community pharmacy manager in Eastbourne, before moving to Harrogate and taking the role of area manager for a national pharmacy chain. Frances joined Tayside in 1999 as a practice pharmacist and became head of pharmacy services in Perth within a short time. Taking on the role of head of medicines governance in 2010 and appointed deputy director of pharmacy in 2012, her talents were quickly recognised, bringing a wealth of experience from her time served working across the pharmacy profession.
Under Frances’s leadership, pharmacy in Tayside was noted across Scotland for its innovation and forward-looking approach. Tayside was the first place in Scotland where preregistration trainees could work in all three sectors of practice; an approach to be adopted across Scotland.
Andrew Radley, consultant in public health pharmacy at NHS Tayside, said: “On a personal level, Frances will be sorely missed as a much-valued friend and colleague. She was well-known for her sense of humour and quirky ways, which made the experience of working with her all the more enjoyable and rewarding. She has provided a very important legacy for pharmacy in Tayside through her interest in, and nurturing of, all members of her team.
“She created a belief that you can achieve even when the challenges seem immense and, most importantly, she helped to create a workplace which was an enjoyable place for all. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her husband, her three beloved children and all of their friends and pharmacy colleagues for this loss,” he added.
Around the table of the NHS Scotland Directors of Pharmacy Group, Frances’s abilities were held in high regard and in 2018 she was made chair of the north of Scotland Directors of Pharmacy group, one of three regional groups that feeds into the overall directorate.
Angela Timoney, director of pharmacy at NHS Lothian, knew Frances from their time as undergraduates at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh. She said: “Frances was a dear friend and close colleague. Her significant skills and attributes were always clear. We worked together for many years in Tayside and her straight talking and sense of humour made every day a pleasure. She was a skilled manager and a compassionate leader, and I am pleased to remember the hard work and fun from that time.”
Christine Gilmour, chair of the NHS Scotland Directors of Pharmacy group, added: “As a fellow director of pharmacy she was an asset around the table, keen to innovate and to advance practice in all sectors. She will be remembered by the directors as a kind, thoughtful and straight-talking colleague who got things done, and her loss will leave a big gap. Her untimely death was a huge shock and our thoughts are with her husband and children.”
Frances’s contribution to the national agenda was considerable and, in 2017, she was asked by the chief pharmaceutical officer at the Scottish government to chair the implementation group for the national Achieving Excellence in Pharmaceutical Care Strategy Group.
Harry McQuillan, chief executive officer of Community Pharmacy Scotland, commented: “I had yet to meet a better chair of a large group. Frances excelled at gaining input from all and keeping a meeting focussed and on track. It was no surprise the number of initiatives she was asked to lead or be involved in including the appointment of Scotland’s first cohort of clinical leadership fellows. I know the pharmacy owner network in Tayside enjoyed working with Frances and they are very grateful for the legacy she leaves.”
Alex MacKinnon, director for Scotland at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), remarked that “Frances was also a great advocate for her professional body, personally contributing to many of the workstreams of the RPS”.
He added: “She will be very sadly missed across the RPS, but particularly by her colleagues in the Scottish directorate. Her enthusiasm and passion for the pharmacy profession will be remembered by us all. I had the privilege of knowing and working with Frances for many years and what I admired and respected most was, whatever the situation, she would welcome and treat you in the same engaging, respectful way.”
Rose Marie Parr, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, and Alison Strath, principal pharmaceutical officer at the Scottish government, said: “We would like to add to the comments of many others who have expressed their appreciation of the life and work of Frances Rooney.
“Frances was always a very thoughtful and innovative leader in pharmacy and especially in the advancement of pharmaceutical care. She was a real pleasure to work with and chaired meetings with both flair and aplomb. She was also passionate about education and research, and was instrumental in providing leadership to establish the north of Scotland joint board between the NHS and the school of pharmacy at Robert Gordon University. Frances, as an ambassador for the pharmacy profession, was a dynamic force: determined, intelligent, kind, quick-witted and always with a great sense of humour. Those of us who were privileged to know Frances can testify to her sense of fun — the life and soul of any occasion — which ensured that her company was always sought out and always remembered. She will be sadly missed.”
Christine Gilmour, chair of the NHS Scotland Directors of Pharmacy group; Alex MacKinnon, RPS director for Scotland; Harry McQuillan, chief executive officer of Community Pharmacy Scotland; Rose Marie Parr, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland; Andrew Radley, consultant in public health pharmacy at NHS Tayside; Alison Strath, principal pharmaceutical officer for Scotland; and Angela Timoney, director of pharmacy at NHS Lothian