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07.02.19

88-year-old NHS secretary become oldest ever person to win age discrimination case

An 88-year-old hospital secretary has become the oldest person to ever win an age discrimination case after she was marched out of her office by security and sacked when colleagues complained about her age and “frailty.”

Eileen Jolly was left “humiliated” and “degraded” after she was dismissed from Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in January 2017 when she failed to upload details of cancer patients into a new electronic database.

But the 88-year-old has now successfully sued the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust and won her claim of unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of age and disability, although she will have to wait until October before her compensation is announced and awarded.

The tribunal heard that Jolly was told to collect her things and was escorted out of the hospital by security in September 2016 and told people, including her husband, she had retired as she was too ashamed to tell the truth.

Jolly, who has not missed a single day of work in 10 years – despite suffering a heart attack in work in 2004 and had to be resuscitated by a surgeon – was blamed for 14 women having to wait over a year for non-urgent breast surgery at the hospital, despite not being trained to use the new electronic system.

Royal Berkshire NHS Trust already admitted that Jolly, who had worked in Berkshire since 1991, had been unfairly dismissed and denied the opportunity to appeal, but stressed she was not sacked because of her age.

However, Jolly told an employment tribunal how a manager had compiled an internal report on her work including “unpleasant remarks” regarding her age and health.

One colleague was quoted as saying “it was always a concern that you could walk in and find Eileen dead on the floor,” and her manager Brendan Smith said she had been made a “scapegoat” for management failings.

At the tribunal, judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto said there was a “suspicion of the claimant being a scapegoat,” and that there was evidence she had received inadequate and incomplete training.

Don Fairley, the director of workforce at the hospital trust, said: “The trust takes staff welfare extremely seriously along with our responsibility to provide safe and effective care to patients. We acknowledge the judgment of the tribunal and will be considering our next steps.”

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