Obituary - Thomas Acheson Harden Carter (“Harden”) Class of 1966



After graduating Thomas Acheson Harden Carter (“Harden”) gained his membership of the Royal College of Physicians, worked in paediatrics in New Zealand, returned to Scotland to train in general practice (gaining membership of the Royal College of GPs), and then began training in public health. He won the prestigious Littlejohn Gairdner prize before starting his first consultant appointment.

Harden Carter was a highly esteemed consultant in public health and worked in three adjacent Scottish health boards: Fife, Forth Valley, and Lothian. He drew on his qualifications and experience in general medicine and general practice in a highly productive public health career. His research and publication record was remarkable among his peers.

He worked closely and effectively with clinicians, patients, and managers to develop innovative services well ahead of their time. An early example was the development in 1988 of an infant car seat loan scheme throughout Fife. This was some eight years before they became generally available and 19 years before they became compulsory. NHS Fife bought several thousand seats and encouraged all mothers leaving the maternity hospital to hire the seat for a year for the sum of £10. The mothers took their babies home from the maternity ward in them. While the scheme was running there was evidence that serious infant injury had been prevented.

Harden was an early champion of measles immunisation and, subsequently, the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR). He worked with clinicians and parent groups to promote immunisation at a time when the general public did not consider measles a potentially serious and fatal disease. Harden drove Fife’s immunisation rates to the highest in Scotland.

Harden, throughout his career, moved through different remits and responsibilities, bringing his innovation and drive to varied client and patient groups. Working, as always, with clinicians, voluntary groups, and managers, he instigated innovative services for excluded and sometimes forgotten groups. He had a knack of achieving substantial recurring funding for new services. In Fife these included parent held records, Fife’s first consultant community paediatrician, a new area rehabilitation service for physically disabled people, headed by a new consultant in rehabilitation medicine. In Forth Valley these included a newly funded community based area rehabilitation service for physically disabled people, a specialist healthcare worker for homeless people, dedicated primary care services for homeless people, new mental health services for offenders, and mental health resource centres in Stirling and Falkirk. In Lothian these included a direct access Dexa scanning service, services for people with eating disorders, and a managed clinical network for epilepsy for south east Scotland.

Harden chaired and contributed to Scottish working groups on areas such as chronic pain, autism, eating disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

His colleagues recall him as a sincere, conscientious, and highly capable colleague. He was a high achiever while being kindly and considerate.

Harden was as active and wide ranging in his personal life. Married for 47 years to fellow Queen’s University Medical graduate Romilly Carter (née Nelson), he was always proud of his children, Alastair and Emma, and, more recently, his grandson, Noah. Harden threw himself into many hobbies and activities including hill walking, long distance cycling, running (he ran the London and Edinburgh marathons in 2003 with his son, Alastair), music (clarinet and piano), and golf. He was an active church member and elder in Dunfermline and then Pitlochry.

After retiring to the beautiful town of Pitlochry in Perthshire, Harden dedicated time and energy to developing his skills as a painter in oils and other media. He developed well beyond that of a talented amateur and exhibited locally and beyond. He successfully sold many of his paintings with the proceeds going to the charity Linda’s Fund in Malawi and also the local haematology unit. He had many happy times painting in his studio in the garden.

Romilly plans to hold a memorial event for Harden when this becomes possible.

Consultant in public health (b 1947; q Queen’s University, Belfast, 1973; FRCP, FFPHM, MRCGP), died 11 October 2020.


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