Tribute: Robert Shaw (1946–2021)

I was very sad when I heard about the death of Robert JS Shaw FRPharmS, of Norfolk.

I first met Robert (Bob) in the late 1970s when we were working at St Nicholas (psychiatric) Hospital in Great Yarmouth. He was organising the quality testing of medicine samples contracted for regional purchase, as adviser for quality assurance for medicines throughout East Anglia. One of the testing laboratories was then within the hospital. It is now flats and houses.

His friendly and outgoing nature was obvious from our first meeting. We chatted in many situations, including at the (then) Pharmaceutical Society meetings, lectures, regional working parties and the Guild of Hospital (now Healthcare) Pharmacists.

Although staff in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney district were at the periphery, he made us feel important as part of a bigger whole. His pharmaceutical passion was the quality of medicines. I discovered that he was unusual in that, before he studied pharmacy, he had gained a Higher National Certificate in marketing. He had also tested drugs at the Huntingdon Research Laboratories for the pharmaceutical industry.

He trained me as a suitably Qualified Person (QP) to certify medical gases following high hazard work, such as installing new pipework or modifying existing systems. You did not want nitrous oxide, for example, issuing from a pipe labelled as oxygen. He was an excellent teacher.

Bob was a meticulous specialist and had an MPhil. He was a pioneer in quality assurance in hospital pharmacy, and informed and encouraged a new generation of pharmacists. He focused on the material medicine itself, notably its quality. Of course, medicines are the raison d’être for all pharmacists. The contribution of the most clinical of pharmacists is reduced or eliminated if the empirical medicines are faulty.

In 1983, the Society listed him for an extremely important role — he was eligible to be nominated as a QP for the release to market of batches of medicines under European Union (UK only, post-Brexit) regulations. In the 1970s, many practising QPs were pharmacists; today far fewer are. Young pharmacists, compared with biologists and chemists, are seldom becoming QPs.

Bob was later involved in applying for, and opening, the first new pharmacy department for decades in the UK, at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It had to be accredited by the legal registering body for pharmacists and then the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. I heard something of the RPS’s challenging requirements. It was accepted and Bob became the course director. The UEA honoured him with an honorary Fellowship, evidence of distinction in a second element in his exceptional career.

Our growing families also met socially. Bob was a doting family man and a warm-hearted gentleman, who delighted his many friends and colleagues with wry, insightful commentaries on the contemporary scene. We miss him.

I send my heartfelt condolences to his wife Carys, his daughter Katherine and two sons Richard and William, and their families.

Malcolm E. Brown FRPharmS

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2021, Vol 307, No 7955;307(7955)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.111996

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in