An 88-year-old woman was sacked from her job as a NHS secretary. She has become the oldest person to ever bring an age discrimination claim in the UK.

The hospital’s case

Managers at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading reportedly terminated Eileen Jolly in January 2017 after she failed to properly use a computer system.

Mrs Jolly was accused of not uploading details of patients waiting for breast reconstruction to a patient record system, and that this resulted in 14 individuals waiting a year longer for surgery. Mrs Jolly claims that she had not been given training on the system but that in any event she kept her own hard copy version of the waiting list in her drawer.

The internal report said that Mrs Jolly had a "fundamental misunderstanding of her role".

It concluded that she had broken her contract by failing to upload all patients’ details to the database so that they could receive treatment. It said that her employment had been terminated "on grounds of capability" for a "catastrophic failure".

What Mrs Jolly is saying

Mrs Jolly claims that the internal report included "unpleasant" comments about her age.

A quote from a colleague contained within the report particularly upset Mrs Jolly. "It was always a concern that you could walk in and find Eileen dead on the floor."

Mrs Jolly says that she had never taken a day off sick in 10 years of employment, even though she had a heart attack in 2004 and had to be revived. She said: "It had been my intention to continue to work for as long as I could - until I was at least 90 years old."

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.
— Eileen Jolly

Mrs Jolly’s boss, breast surgeon Brendan Smith, said she was a "reliable and meticulous" employee who was being made a "scapegoat" for management failings. He added that "Eileen was at the bottom of the tree. I think they made an example of her because heads had to roll."

Mrs Jolly, who has worked for the NHS in Berkshire since 1991, said: "It was humiliating. I felt degraded. I felt as if I was being escorted off the premises in case I did something I shouldn't."

Mrs Jolly's barrister Mark Green said her sacking demonstrated her managers were guilty of "insidious stereotyping about elderly people. They had made a decision that they could not retrain her and it was because of her age and disability. She was treated callously after a 25-year career and suffered greatly.”

The decision

Mrs Jolly brought claims of unfair dismissal, age discrimination and disability discrimination.

The NHS trust has conceded unfair dismissal after it failed to provide her with an opportunity to appeal her dismissal, but denies that age was a factor.

The Employment Tribunal has deferred judgment until a later date.