The NHS is facing an Employment Tribunal challenge at the hands of an 88-year-old woman who claims she was humiliated, degraded and subjected to age discrimination by her employer.
Mrs Eileen Jolly, who worked for the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for several years, was dismissed in January last year after she made a serious error when entering important information into a computer record-keeping system.
The elderly employee, who has a heart condition and walks with the aid of stick, claims that she was unfairly dismissed on the grounds of this single error, despite having an exemplary service record and not taking a single day off sick in 10 years.
“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.”
In response to her claims, Mrs Jolly’s employer said that her mistake – failing to correctly input data affecting a number of cancer patients awaiting non-urgent treatment – resulted in as many as 14 women due to undergo breast reconstruction surgery having to wait more than a year for their operations.
However, while one of Mrs Jolly’s bosses described the error as a “catastrophic failure,” another suggested that the 88-year-old had been used as “a scapegoat” by superior staff who wanted to “make an example of her,” while Mrs Jolly herself insisted that she had never been properly trained to use the computer program in question.
A spokesperson on behalf of the disgruntled former employee said that she had been “humiliated” and “degraded,” adding that her bosses were guilty of “insidious stereotyping about elderly people.”
The Employment Tribunal, which is ongoing, is yet to reach a decision in the case.