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Betty Miller: An idealist who wasn't afraid to speak out

Michael Burgess profiles the former IT support services manager at Greenwich Health Trust, who claims she lost her job after criticising senior management for wasting money.

Betty Miller hates waste. One of her favourite hobbies is visiting junk shops and she freely admits that she would rather have an old piece of furniture than buy a new one. Not surprising then that, as IT support services manager for Greenwich Health Trust, she spoke up when she saw what she regarded as expensive purchasing mistakes.

This episode aside, Miller is renowned for keeping her cool - an ability that could be partly explained by the actions of one of her work mates. During a heatwave a colleague had the bright idea of installing an air brick in her floor to extend air conditioning from the building's core into Betty's office. The trouble was, it blasted cold air straight up her skirt.

And junior operators at the datacentre used to call her the Ice Maiden because of the way the atmosphere could suddenly chill if they gave the job less than their best. And yet her maternal instincts are legendary. "She was a mother figure that I would run to when senior management had reduced me to tears," says a colleague.

Another operator, who used to make much of his macho background as an SAS soldier, happened to be arachnophobic and would come running to Betty when he needed a nasty spider removed from his work station. When colleagues were victimised for whistle blowing she stepped into the firing line to defend them, and to drive home her criticisms of senior management decisions.

So what makes Betty so dedicated to the National Health Service? Her mother tells of the pneumonia and other serious illnesses that kept Betty home from school until her teens. "I think this is the reason she has so much sympathy for the sick and the suffering," her mother says.Before joining Greenwich Health Trust, Betty worked part-time for an insurance firm in Woolwich until her children left school.

Then she took a course in IT. When it was only half completed, she was taken ill and had to undergo emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. She went on to qualify for her City & Guilds with flying colours in 1987, at the same time as her daughter Jennifer (now 27). Her son, Adrian (28) is a printer, and father to Betty's two grandsons.

Betty is a gifted mimic with a lively sense of humour, and her taste for folk music may be linked to her Belfast Presbyterian roots. She regularly catches folk club gigs and likes to sing. The last time she went to the theatre was to see Irish singer/songwriter Paul Brady at the Barbican Centre. Ice queen or not, most people who know Miller agree she's pretty cool.

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