Pharmacy Technician Retires After 50 Years Service

Video messages from as far afield as Texas helped mark the retirement of a pharmacy technician after more than 50 years of working with the NHS in Forth Valley.

Helen McCabe’s half a century of service saw a wide range of changes and innovations – from filling pharmacy boxes and pre-packing tablets and liquids to the opening of a new hospital, the creation of a new pharmacy department, electronic prescribing and robotic dispensing.

Helen joined the Pharmacy Department at the former Stirling Royal Infirmary in 1972. Notable events of the time included the introduction of the first handheld scientific calculator, headlines were dominated by the Winter Olympics in Japan, coal miners strikes and Britain joining the European Community. In the 50 years that Helen has been working in local pharmacy services, there have been 9 US Presidents and 10 Prime Ministers!

Helen qualified as a pharmacy technician in 1974 after being awarded the Certificate for Pharmacy Technicians from the Scottish Technical Council at the former David Dale College in Glasgow and in 1979 took a position of pharmacy technician at Bellsdyke Hospital remaining there until the reconfiguration of hospital pharmacy services at the end of the Central Scotland Healthcare Trust in 1998. During that time, she received several promotions and enrolled in the first HNC in Pharmaceutical Sciences course offered by Telford College and was awarded the qualification in 1993. This was followed swiftly with the Pharmacy Checking Technician Course in 1995.

Helen subsequently returned to Stirling Royal Infirmary as Senior Pharmacy Technician and in 2000 became Team Leader Pharmacy Services for the former Forth Valley Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. In 2009, she became Operational Services Manager for the Pharmacy Department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Colleagues from across the pharmacy community, including former Directors of Pharmacy, joined Helen’s final celebration at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Fiona McIntyre NHS Forth Valley’s Associate Director of Pharmacy for Acute and Specialist Services, said: “We’ve told Helen many times that she could write a book with the changes she has seen and the success she has had in steering this ship through many a storm and coming out the other side.

“NHS Forth Valley has benefitted hugely from Helen’s loyalty, commitment, dedication and reliability. She has gone over and above for the service and for the team on a regular basis. Helen is an incredible role model, not only for pharmacy technicians, but for all of us. We will all miss her ability to listen, her wise words of advice and her sense of humour.

“We also wanted to congratulate her on a wonderful career and wish her the very best for the next chapter – no alarms clocks, no early starts and more time to spend with the people that she loves, doing the things that she loves and finding new passions in life.”

Helen, who was given a round of applause in a pharmacy guard of honour, admits she was dreading retirement, but says she has plenty of plans.

She said: “I’m just taking a little time to decide what I am going to do. I was overwhelmed by the number of messages, cards and presents and so many people have been getting in touch and texting that I am booked every weekend until the end of April 2022.”

Gifts from colleagues included two pieces from a Dunblane glass blower, a framed wood art print in the shape of a mortar and pestle and a celebration cake decorated with pills and medicine bottles.