Sacked 88-year-old woman sues NHS for age discrimination

An 88-year-old woman has become the oldest ever person to sue an employer for age discrimination after she was sacked from her job as an NHS secretary.

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

The NHS trust admitted she was unfairly dismissed as she was not given an opportunity to appeal, but it insisted that she was not sacked because of her age.

Jolly, who has worked in Berkshire for the NHS since 1991, said she had not been trained to use the patient record system.

She told the employment tribunal she had not taken a sick day for ten years, but that an internal report into her work compiled by a manager included “unpleasant” remarks regarding her age and health.

Jolly said: “I felt as though (he) had assumed that at my age and because of my health I was a liability and incapable of change, and had to go.”

She said she had wanted to continue working as long as she could, but was particularly upset when one colleague was quoted as saying: “It was always a concern that you could walk in and find Eileen dead on the floor.”

Eileen’s boss Brendan Smith said she was a “reliable and meticulous” employee who was being made a “scapegoat” for management failings.

He said: “Eileen was at the bottom of the tree. I think they made an example of her because heads had to roll.”

Jolly was accused of failing to upload details of cancer patients awaiting non-urgent breast reconstruction into a new database, which was partly blamed for more than 14 women having to wait more than a year for surgery.

She was suspended and a tribunal hearing in Reading heard that a report compiled by the trust manager found she had "fundamental misunderstanding of her role".

The tribunal deferred judgement until a later date.

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