NHS faces age discrimination challenge from 88-year-old former employee

An 88-year-old woman who was dismissed from her position at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading last year is suing the NHS for age discrimination, it has emerged.

Mrs Eileen Jolly, who is reportedly the oldest person ever to sue an employer on these grounds, was sacked in January 2017 amid concerns that she was having trouble using a computer system which made up a key part of her role.

According to a report in The Telegraph, Mrs Jolly had failed to correctly upload details of a number of cancer patients onto the system, despite these patients all requiring breast reconstruction surgery in the months ahead.

As a result of the error, 14 women awaiting non-urgent surgery had to wait more than a year to undergo the necessary operations – a mistake described by her employer as a “catastrophic failure.”

Nevertheless, Mrs Jolly – who says that she felt “humiliated” and “degraded” after being suspended and subsequently dismissed for the error – claims that she had not been properly trained to use the new system in the first place.

She adds that her work record at the Royal Berkshire Hospital prior to the error was exemplary – and that she had not taken a single day off sick in more than a decade, despite having suffered a cardiac arrest at work back in 2004 and having to be resuscitated by a doctor.

“I felt as though he [my employer] had assumed that at my age and because of my health I was a liability and incapable of change and had to go,” she told a press interview.

“It had been my intention to continue to work for as long as I could – until I was at least 90 years old.”

A spokesperson for the 88-year-old, who suffers from a heart condition and walks using a stick, said that her bosses were guilty of “insidious stereotyping about elderly people” and that Mrs Jolly deserved justice.

In response, one of her former supervisors, surgeon Brendan Smith, described Mrs Jolly as a “reliable and meticulous employee” and suggested that she had been bullied by superior hospital managers who intended to “make an example of her.”

A decision in the case is yet to be made.

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell Turner Garrett
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell Turner Garrett’s London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.