It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Dr Bill Pitkethly. I had the pleasure of knowing Bill for 40 years, initially in his role as a lecturer at Sunderland School of Pharmacy and then as regional quality control pharmacist for the NHS Northern Regional Health Authority. Bill served in this latter, newly-created, post until his retirement from the NHS. I worked with Bill for much of that time, during which he built a strong foundation for this post, in which I later succeeded him.
Bill was knowledgeable and proficient in the field of quality control and brought his expertise in pharmaceutical chemistry to the NHS. As the remit of the post widened to include quality assurance, he adapted and developed his skills, for example by becoming an accomplished auditor for both hospital and industrial pharmaceutical activities.
Bill was a visionary, with thinking well ahead of his time. He created the Regional Quality Control Service for the North East, centralising microbiological expertise, environmental testing and clean room clothing services on the laboratory in Stockton on Tees in 1980. The laboratory, now in more modern facilities within the University Hospital of North Tees, goes from strength to strength providing an expert pharmaceutical quality control service to over 50 NHS units (pharmacy and medical physics) across not just the North East, but also in Yorkshire and, in some cases, further afield. The success of the Stockton laboratory is an on-going tribute to Bill’s forward thinking.
Bill was also an excellent communicator and a strong leader. In the late 1970s, he formed the Quality Control Technical Group, bringing together all QC leads in his NE region. This group provided a forum for collaboration, promoted development of appropriate standards ensuring uniformity of service delivery, and also created a network for valuable peer support within the specialism. These aims are entirely in line with current NHS policy. The group still remains active and has developed over the years. It now has a more extensive quality assurance remit and covers the wider geographical area of Yorkshire and the North West, in addition to the original North East. I have had the pleasure of chairing this group since I took over the North East Regional Quality Assurance role from Bill in 1991. The group has continued to fulfil its primary aims, as Bill envisaged, and has had a consistently high quality output. It is unlikely to have existed had Bill not had the foresight to create it all those years ago.
On a personal level, I kept in touch with Bill during his retirement and am pleased that I saw him in hospital just a couple of weeks before he died. He was always supportive of me in my career and was a great sounding board if I needed guidance. He maintained his dry sense of humour and practical outlook on life even towards the end. Such was the regard for Bill amongst former colleagues that we regularly met with him socially as a group. I, and my colleagues and friends in our particular specialism of pharmacy, will miss him greatly.